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Preparing For San Diego Fire Season: Lessons Learned From May Wildfires

Fire retardant is dropped by a plane on homes threatened by fire in San Marcos.
Patty Lane
Fire retardant is dropped by a plane on homes threatened by fire in San Marcos.
Preparing For San Diego Fire Season: Lessons Learned From May Wildfires
Preparing For San Diego Fire Season: Lessons Learned From May Wildfires GUESTS:Jeff Chumley, battalion chief, Carlsbad Fire Department Ron Lane, deputy chief administrator, County of San Diego Steve Vanderburg, senior meteorologist, SDG&E Scott Ybarrondo, captain, San Diego County Sheriff's Department Bill Earley, CEO, American Red Cross of San Diego/Imperial Counties Alex Tardy, meteorologist, National Weather Service Brian Fennessy, assistant fire chief, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department

I'M MAUREEN CAVANAUGH. IS WEDNESDAY, MAY 13. TODAY I MIDDAY EDITION, WE REMEMBER THE OUTBREAK OF THE MAY 2014 WILDFIRES. 14 FIRES THAT BURNED OVER 26,000 ACRES AND A PERIOD FIVE DAYS. THE WORST DAY WAS WEDNESDAY, MAY 14 OF LAST YEAR WHEN NINE FIRES WERE BURNING AT THE SAME TIME. HERE IS WHAT SOME OF THE COVERAGE SOUNDED LIKE ON THAT DAY. WE SAVED A LOT OF HOMES, WE'VE LOST A FEW UNFORTUNATELY, BUT SOMETIMES THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS BECAUSE OF THE WINDS. WE CANNOT CONTROL WHERE IT GOES . 'S TERRIFYING. I KNOW IT'S JUST STUFF, BUT THERE'S A LIFE, TO, THREE, FOUR LOTS OF STUFF WAS IN THAT HOUSE . IT WAS JUST DEVASTATING, ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING TO SEE EVERYTHING IN A PILE OF RUBBLE. THE ROUTE THE FLAMES TOOK I GOT LUCKY ANOTHER 50 FEET AND IT COULD OF BEEN MY PLACE EASILY . MY HOUSE AND PROBABLY 26 OTHER HOUSES WERE BURNED TO THE GROUND. AND WE JUST GOT OUT WITH BARELY THE CLOSE ON OUR BACK. THAT'S ABOUT IT . EVEN FOR A COUNTY FAMILIAR WITH WILDFIRE IN EVENTS, THE SHEER NUMBER OF THE FIRES AND NOT KNOWING WHERE OR WHEN ANOTHER MIGHT BREAK OUT MADE IT A TERRIBLE FEW DAYS FOR SAN DIEGO. EVEN MORE TERRIBLE FOR THE PEOPLE WHO LOST THEIR HOMES AND POSSESSIONS IN THE FIRES. THE FINAL COUNT OF DESTRUCTION WAS 65 STRUCTURES, INCLUDING 46 SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES DESTROYED AND SIX FIREFIGHTERS INJURED. MY GUEST TODAY WILL EXPLAIN WHAT THE MAY FIRESTORM WAS LIKE FOR THE PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT IT AND FOR THE PEOPLE WHO TRY TO KEEP SAN DIEGANS SAFE. WE WILL ALSO EXPLORE WHAT WE LEARN FROM THE FIRES AND HOW THAT MAY BE -- MAY IMPROVE THE RESPONSE TO SAN DIEGO'S NEXT WILDFIRE. JOINING ME ARE JEFF CHUMLEY, BATTALION CHIEF WITH THE CARLSBAD FIRE DEPARTMENT, JEFF, WELCOME TO THE SHOW . THANK YOU . RON LANE IS DEPUTY CHIEF ADMINISTRATOR OFFICER FOR THE COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO AND RON, WELCOME GOOD MORNING . SAN DIEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S CAPTAIN. SCOTT YBARRONDO. WELCOME . THANK YOU. THE BERNARDO FIRE WAS THE FIRST FIRE IN THE SERIES THAT MOST SAN DIEGANS ARE AWARE OF. WHAT DOES THE COUNTY DO WHEN IT IS INFORMED OF THE MAJOR FIRE? RIGHT. THIS FIRE HAPPENED IN THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO, WHICH IS UNUSUAL. IN THE PAST, 2003, 2007 FIRE STARTED IN THE EAST COUNTY AND CAME STORIES THE CITY. WHAT MADE THIS CHALLENGING FOR THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO'S FIRE DEPARTMENT WAS THE STARTED IN THE CANYONS AND IMMEDIATELY PUT HOMES AT RISK WITHIN MINUTES WHERE THEY HAD TO DO EVACUATIONS. SO WE ACTIVATE OUR COUNTY EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER, WE COORDINATE ALL OF THE DISASTERS FOR THE ENTIRE REGION AND OPPOSITE THE CITY AGGRAVATED THERE'S AND IMMEDIATELY WENT TO WORK AND THEY ACTIVATED THE FIRE STARTED 11 AM EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO TODAY. AND BURNED A 1500 ACRE. FORTUNATELY, THEY DID NOT LOSE A SINGLE HOME ON THE FIRST DAY . NOW, THE SECOND DAY COMES AND ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIRES ALL REPORTED WITHIN A SPACE OF HOURS. TELL US HOW EVENTS UNFOLDED AT THE COUNTY DURING THAT TIME . WE THOUGHT WE HAD DODGED A BULLET BECAUSE THE BERNARDO FIRE HAD BEEN ESSENTIALLY PUT UNDER CONTROL THAT NIGHT ON THE 13th BUT THE WINDS WERE OVER 50 MILES PER HOUR THE NEXT DAY AND WE KNEW WE WERE SET UP FOR ANOTHER BAD DAY. IN THE POINSETTIA FIRE STARTED AT 10:30 AM IN THE MORNING AND WE IMMEDIATELY ACTIVATED OUR COUNTY OPERATIONS CENTER, THAT IS WHERE WE BRING IN 45 DIFFERENT AGENCIES TO COORDINATE THE ENTIRE DISASTER RESPONSE AND WE HAVE A JOINT INFORMATION CENTER WHERE WE COMMUNICATE WITH OUR PUBLIC AND WE MANAGE THE EVACUATIONS AND ON THAT DAY, WE EVACUATED OVER 50 OR 60,000 INDIVIDUALS THROUGHOUT CARLSBAD AND SUBSEQUENTLY IN SAN MARCO'S AREA. IT WAS A VERY DANGEROUS PERIOD THAT AFTERNOON ESPECIALLY WHEN WE HAD SO MANY FIRES GOING ALL AT ONCE, IN ADDITION TO THE MAJOR ONES, WE ALSO HAD A BUNCH OF SMALLER ONE STARTING THROUGHOUT THE BACKCOUNTRY, ONE OPEN I 15, ON LAKESIDE, AND MEANWHILE ON CAMP PENDLETON, WE HAD TO FIRE START ON PENDLETON AS WELL. THERE WAS A LOT OF COORDINATION AS FAR AS MAKING SURE THE RIGHT RESOURCES AND THE RIGHT PLACE WE WORK WITH THE RED CROSS TO OPEN UP SHELTERS WERE THAT'S RIGHT . WE DID LARGE CAMANO -- ANIMAL EVACUATIONS AND A LOT OF ACTIVITY DURING THAT DAY TO MAKE SURE THE RESIDENTS KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON AND TAKING APPROPRIATE ACTIONS TO EVACUATE AND WE HAVE PLACES FOR THEM TO GO AND TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR FAMILIES . JEFF CHUMLEY, BATTALION CHIEF AT CARLSBAD AS WE HEARD THE POINSETTIA FIRE WAS ONE OF THE WERE SOME OF THE SETTLEMENT TO BREAKOUT DURING THAT SPAN THE FIRES IF YOU WANT THE SCENE. DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SAW WHEN YOU GOT TO THE FIRE SCENE . I RESPONDED SOUTH ON EL CAMINO REAL AND I TOOK A TURN ONTO KASSIE, A DEAD-END AND SAW THE FIRE MOVING TOWARD KASSIE, WHICH IS WHERE I WAS AT AND THE FIRE WAS MOVING REALLY QUICKLY. SO QUICKLY THAT IT WAS VERY CONCERNING TO SEE CARS ON FIRE ALREADY IN AN APARTMENT, LARGE APARTMENT COMPLEX. I WAS SITTING NEXT TO A DENTAL OFFICE, BROKE INTO MY IMMEDIATE NORTH WAS A LARGE NEW HOME DEVELOPMENT THAT WAS IN IMMEDIATE THREAT. IT WAS MOVING VERY QUICKLY. I THINK AT THAT TIME, WHEN THE FIRE BROKE OUT, WE DETERMINED THE WIND SPEED WAS ABOUT 40 MILES PER HOUR PERIOD WITH MOVING REALLY, REALLY QUICKLY. I DON'T THINK YOU CAN REALLY FULLY APPRECIATE HOW QUICKLY THE FIRE TRAVELS UNTIL YOU OBSERVE IT IN THOSE CONDITIONS . EVACUATIONS WERE STARTED I KNOW AND INCLUDING PRESCHOOLS IN THE CARLSBAD AREA. WHAT WAS THAT THING LIKE? YOU KNOW, WE LEARNED A LOT. I THINK THE SCHOOL DISTRICT WAS LEARNED A LOT AS WELL. IT WAS A CHALLENGE AS YOU CAN IMAGINE SOME OF PARENTS THAT ARE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN, I THINK THEY FORGOT ABOUT SOME OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS LIKE LEAVING ROADWAYS OPEN SO THAT WAS A CHALLENGE. PARENTS DEMANDING TO GET TO THE CHILD. ON THE SCHOOL DISTRICT, WE HAVE TO GIVE THEM A LOT OF CREDIT. THEY CLEARLY THAT'S CHILDREN ARE OF THE UTMOST CONCERN . CARS WERE PARKED IN THE STREET IS WHAT YOU ARE SAYING? YES, SOMEONE CLOGGING THE ACCESS POINTS FOR US AS FIREFIGHTERS, POLICE DEPARTMENTS, FROM ALL OVER WILL HELPING WITH THOSE EVACUATIONS, BUT I WOULD STEP -- IT WAS DEFINITELY A CHALLENGE. THE SCHOOLS OBVIOUSLY OUR PRIORITY AND THE CITIZENS IN THAT AREA AND SO WITH REO SEE AND WORKING WITH OES, IT WAS IMMEDIATE THOSE EVACUATIONS . SCOTT IN TORONTO, YOU ON THE SCENE IN SAN MARCO, COCOS FIRE, EVERYONE I BELIEVE WAS WATCHING THAT ON TV SAW THE FLAMES RAISING UPHILLS, CLOSING IN ON HOMES, WELL INTO THE NIGHT. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE SCENE THERE WHEN YOU WERE? WHEN THE FIRE CAME OUT, THE RADIO CAN ALL LITTLE AFTER 3 O'CLOCK AND I WAS MONITORING AND LISTENING TO DEPUTIES GOING ASSISTED WITH TRAFFIC CONTROL TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING WAS FINE WITH THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. IT QUICKLY ERUPTED INTO SOMETHING MUCH MORE. WE WENT TO AN EVACUATION MODE AND I REMEMBER LISTENING TO MY DEPUTIES. STILL BEING AWAY FROM THE SCENE, REALLY NOT UNDERSTANDING HOW BIG IT WAS I TOLD MY SECRETARY TO CONNECT -- SHE CAME TO MY OFFICE AND SAID LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOW AND YOU CAN IMMEDIATELY SEE THIS WAS WANT TO BE SOMETHING LARGE SCALE. WHAT DID YOU SEE OUT YOUR WINDOW? I SAW AN ENTIRE EMBANKMENT IN FLAMES, SMOKE, AND IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS MOVING PRETTY QUICKLY . ONE OF OUR LISTENERS, DJ SOMEWHAT TOLD US WHAT HE EXPERIENCED DURING THE COCOS FIRE . I WAS WORKING FROM HOME THAT DAY MY WIFE WORKS IN CARLSBAD AND I JUST CAME HOME FROM THE GYM AND I LOOKED OVER AND I SAW THAT THE CARLSBAD FIRE HAS STARTED. YOU COULD SEE IT OVER THE HILL BEHIND OUR HOME, SO WE GOT THE WORD TO EVACUATE AND WE WENT TO THE HIGH SCHOOL. I REMEMBER SITTING AT THE HIGH SCHOOL WHILE WE WERE SORTING OUT WHAT WE WERE DOING. AND IT WAS CRAZY BECAUSE THE FIRE WAS ALMOST HAPPENING STATES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF 78. THE HIGH SCHOOL, MISSION HILLS HIGH SCHOOL IS ON THE NORTH SIDE. I WAS -- THE ENTIRE FIRE WAS PLAYING OUT ON THE STAGE. AND YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR HOUSES. IT JUST JUST WATCHING THE FARMER THAT WHAT APPEARED YES, IT WAS VERY SCARY . THAT WAS ONE OF OUR LISTENERS, DJ SOME OF THAT, HIS EXPERIENCE DURING THE MAY 2014 WILDFIRES. SCOTT YBARRONDO, THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF EVACUATIONS MANDATED DURING THE MAIN WILDFIRES. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO CONDUCT THOSE EVACUATIONS? ADDITIONALLY, IT IS VERY CHAOTIC. WE HAVE A LIMITED RESOURCES AND OUR RESOURCES WERE DEPLETED BECAUSE OF THE OTHER GUYS ON THE COUNTY THAT DAVID WHERE THE NORMAL PATROL STAFF OF EIGHT DEPUTIES. AND WITH THE MINUTES, WE NEEDED 10 TIMES THAT. OUR DEPUTIES WENT RIGHT INTO THE MOST AFFECTED AREA, WHICH WAS THE CORONADO HILLS AREA OF WHERE THE COCOS FIRE WHERE IT STARTED THE WASHINGTONIAN AND COCOS AREA. AND THEY ARE GOING DOOR TO DOOR TO MY DRIVING DOWN THE ROADS, JUST TRY TO GET THE PEOPLE WHO ARE IN IMMEDIATE NEED OF GETTING OUT OF THERE. GETTING THEM EVACUATED . DO PEOPLE WANT TO STAY IN THEIR HOMES? TYPICALLY, WHEN THE FIRES THAT CLOSE, PEOPLE LEAVE. IT'S THE PEOPLE WHO ARE A LITTLE FURTHER AWAY AND WHEN WE GET WITH FIRE OFFICIALS AND FOR SURE THE FIRES GOING THAT WAY, BUT THEY DON'T SEE IT DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THEIR HOUSE, SOMETIMES WERE PROBLEMS WITH PEOPLE LEAVING . JUST GOT WAS JUST SAYING THAT SOME OF THE -- BECAUSE THERE WERE SO MANY FIRES BURNING AT THE SAME TIME, JEFF, THAT RESOURCES WERE A BIT STRAINED. DID YOU FIND THAT IT POINSETTIA FIRE? YES ABSOLUTELY, WE WERE RUNNING SUCH A VAST VARIETY OF FIRES FROM 18 UNIT APARTMENT COMPLEXES TO COMMERCIAL STRUCTURE FIRE WHICH NORMALLY WOULD BE A THREE ALARM FIRE . IN AND OF ITSELF . YES, INCIDENTS WITHIN THIS LARGE INCIDENT AND WE CALL FOR A THIRD ALARM FIRE RESPONSE WHICH REALLY DEPLETED THE IMMEDIATE NORTH COUNTY AREA, WHICH WAS GOOD BECAUSE HE GOT THEM THERE QUICKER BUT THEN WE STARTED CALLING FOR STRIKE TEAMS. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE VORNADO FIRE -- BERNARDO FIRE WAS A SIGNIFICANT ADVANTAGE BECAUSE WE DID HAVE UNITS THAT WERE READY TO BE DEPLOYED. SAN DIEGO FIRE CHIEF, FANTASY WAS AT OUR COMMAND POST OFFERING STRIKE TEAMS FROM SAN DIEGO CITY. WE HAD THE AIRCRAFT READILY AVAILABLE BECAUSE OF THE BERNARDO INCIDENT AND THAT WAS NEAT TO SEE . LET ME GO TO WHAT PEOPLE WERE SAYING DURING THE FIRE, RON LANE, BECAUSE THERE WAS A LOT OF SPECULATION AT THE TIME THAT THESE FIRES WERE THE RESULT OF ARSON. I THINK THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT THAT IN THE -- ON AIR. ELECTED OFFICIALS SPECULATED THAT WAS POSSIBLY THE CAUSE. WHAT DID WE FIND OUT ABOUT THE CAUSES? WELL, WE FOUND OUT THAT ONE WAS DEFINITELY ARSON, THE COCOS FIRE. THAT WAS A DUDE THAT WAS RECENTLY IN THE NEWS HAVING THE HEARING AT THE JUVENILE COURT. ALL OF THE OTHER ONES, BERNARDO FIRE WAS MECHANICAL CAUSED BY MECHANICAL MEANS. THE ALL OTHERS WERE NEVER DETERMINED WHAT THE ACTUAL CAUSE WAS. IC. JEFF, THERE WAS ONE MAN WHO WAS FOUND DEAD IN CARLSBAD. DURING THE FIRE, BUT THE FIRE WAS NOT THE CAUSE OF DEATH, WAS A? I'M NOT SURE THEY ACTUALLY -- OF THE ACTUAL DETAILS ARE OUT THERE. I THINK THERE IS A SPECULATION AND THE BEST AMIDES, BEST ESTIMATES HE LIVED IN A TRAILER AND WHETHER OR NOT HE WAS DECEASED PRIOR TO THE INCIDENT -- RON? THE COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER DID DETERMINE THAT HE HAD DIED PRIOR TO THE FIRE THAT HE DID NOT HIRE AS A RESULT OF THE FIRE . SO LUCKILY THERE WERE NO FATALITIES. RON, SAN DIEGANS WERE OBVIOUSLY SHAKEN UP BY THESE FIRES. I MEAN, THEY WANT ALL DAY LONG. MORE THAN ONE DAY LONG. BUT WOULD YOU SAY THERE WAS PANIC? NO, I WAS VERY IMPRESSIVE RESULT THE SAME THING IN 2007. SAN DIEGO SHOULD BE VERY PROUD OF THE WAY THE RESIDENTS TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES, LOOK AFTER THEIR NEIGHBORS. WE KEPT HEARING STORIES ABOUT HOW HIS PEOPLE WERE EVACUATING, THEY WOULD STOP AND CHECK ON AN ELDERLY LATER/NEIGHBORS TO MAKE SURE THEY EVACUATED. THAT IS WHAT MAKES US PROUD TO BE PART OF THIS COMMUNITY AND ALSO PAYS TO -- SHOWS HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO REPAIR BECAUSE THE MORE PREPARED -- PREPARED WE ARE THE MORE WERE ABLE TO MAKE THESE TYPE OF EVACUATIONS AND BE CONFIDENT AND NOT PANIC BECAUSE WE KNOW WE'VE ALREADY GONE AHEAD AND WE KNOW WHERE WE'RE GOING ON WE KNOW WHERE THE EVACUATIONS ARE. THE MORE YOU PREPARE AHEAD, THE LESS PANICKY WILL BE AT THE TIME WHEN THE SHERIFF DEPUTY KNOCKED ON YOUR DOOR OR WE SEND YOU AN ALERT SAN DIEGO PHONE CALL TELLING YOU TO EVACUATE TO 50 MINUTES. WHEN YOU SAW THAT -- SCOTT, WHEN YOU SAW THE HUGE FIRE THAT WAS GOING UP THE HILLSIDE, FROM YOUR OFFICE, WHEN YOU WERE HEADING OUT TO THE COCOS FIRE, THE EXPECT THAT YOU WOULD HEAR THAT THERE WOULD BE MORE DAMAGE THAN 65 STRUCTURES COMPRISE INJURIES? ABSOLUTELY. THE FACT THAT WE DID LOSE ANYBODY IN THE FIRE, WE HAD NO DEPUTIES OF FIREFIGHTERS SERIOUSLY INJURED AND NO CITIZENS SERIOUSLY INJURED. IT IS AMAZING. LOOKING AT THAT FIRE, AND IT'S INTERESTING AS A POLICE OFFICER OR DEPUTY SHERIFF, WITH THE FIVE ARTISANS THAT WOULD NEVER DO THAT JOB AND THEY LOOK AT IS IS THAT I WOULD NEVER DO THAT JOB. BUT IT'S AMAZING TO ME TO LOOK AT THAT SHEER MASS OF FLAME ALL OF THE ENTIRE COUNTY AND WHAT THESE FIREFIGHTERS WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT CORONATION, WHAT THEY CAN DO TO THE SAVE PROPERTY ALIKE . WHAT WE DO SAY SAVED HOMES? DURING THAT JUST FIRE, JEFF . WE CHANGE OUR THINKING AND LEARNED A LOT 203, 07 AND THE USE OF AIRCRAFT CERTAINLY HELPED US IN CARLSBAD, THAT COORDINATION . THE WATER DROPS YOU MEAN? THE WATER DROPS WE HEAD FOR ROTOR HELICOPTERS DROPPING WATER AND THE FIXED WING, WE HAD TO AIRCRAFT, SAN MARCUS WERE ABLE TO PULL FROM THAT BUT THE CORONATION WITH THE AGENCIES SURROUNDING US AND TRANSITION ATTACKS, TRANSITIONAL ATTACKS IS SOMETHING THAT WE DIDN'T ALWAYS PLAN ON DOING. AND 03, I REMEMBER TRYING TO FIGHT STRUCTURE FIRES WITH NO GREETING -- BREATHING APPARATUS. YOU JUST HELD YOUR BREATH AND PUT YOUR BRAND AND OVER YOUR MOUTH AGO WHEN I TRY TO SAVE PEOPLE'S IMPORTANT THINGS, COLLECTIBLES, PICTURES, THIS WAS SOMETHING AND I DON'T KNOW BEING AT CARLSBAD HAS BEEN A CARLSBAD FIREFIGHTER AND THIS IS IN THE HOME TIME, WE TAKE THAT STAND AND I THINK EVERYBODY FEELS THE SAME WAY. BEING ABLE TO DO WHAT WE CAN. THE DENTAL OFFICE, WE HAD GUYS IN THEIR STRUCTURE CARE THAT WENT INTO PUT FIRE THAT HAD GONE INTO THE ATTIC AND ADJUSTMENT THAT WAS IN MEXICO ON HIS VACATION THAT WAS WATCHING CNN NEWS, WATCH LITERALLY WATCHED THIS ON FIRE AND EXPECTED TO COME HOME TO NOTHING. THE FIRE WAS IN THE ATTIC AND EVERYTHING IN HIS HOUSE WAS SAVED. I THINK THAT MINDSET THAT TRANSITIONAL ATTACKS, FIRE FRONT FOLLOWING GOING BACK AFTER THE FIRE BROKE THROUGH AND US BEING OF TO TAKE A STAND AND STRUCTURES SAVED SOME HOMES . WHEN YOU FOUGHT A FIRE LIKE THAT, JEFF, DO HAVE FLASHBACKS OF IT AS THE DAYS AFTER THE FIRE COULD -- FIRE? DO YOU DREAM ABOUT A? DO YOU RELIVE A? YOU THINK ABOUT IT FOR SURE, THINK FOR ME IT'S THE WEATHER CONDITIONS, LAYING IN BED AT NIGHT AND HEARING THE SENATE AND IS BLOW THROUGH, THE CERTAIN SMELL SOMETHING THOSE THINGS SPARKED THE MEMORIES OF THAT. I WILL NEVER FORGET ALL OF THOSE FIRES NOW, THEATER I WAS ON THE WHICH FIRE AND NOW THIS, THE PORT CITY OF FIRE. DIFFERENT ROLE, THESE ARE MY FIRST LARGE-SCALE INCIDENT AS BATTALION CHIEF, BUT THE CEDAR FIRE WAS A FIREFIGHTER AND WHICH FIRE, AN ENGINEER AND NOW IS A BATTALION CHIEF THE EXCEL YES, DEFINITELY BRINGS BACK THE MEMORIES . PEOPLE IN SAN DIEGO SHARED THAT WHEN THERE IS A SANTA ANA. I'VE BEEN SPEAKING WITH BATTALION CHIEF JEFF CHUMLEY WITH THE CARLSBAD FIRE DEPARTMENT. RON LANE, DEPUTY CHIEF ADMINISTRATOR OFFICER FOR THIS COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO AND SAN DIEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S CAPTAIN, SCOTT YBARRONDO. THANK YOU ALL. THANK YOU. THE MAIN WILDFIRES OF 2014 IS THE TOPIC TODAY. AND WE CONTINUE THE RETROSPECTIVE WITH THE FOCUS ON THE AFTERMATH OF THE FIRE SPREAD FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO LOST THEIR HOMES AND MOST EVERYTHING THEY OWN, THE EXPERIENCE WAS DEVASTATING. THE HARMONY GROWTH SPIRITUAL CENTER WAS ONE OF THE BUILDINGS DESTROYED. LISTENER MELISSA'S ARTICLE IS SO THIS IS HOW THE CONGREGATION REACTED . WHEN THEY HAD THE FIRST SERVICE A COUPLE OF MONTHS LATER IS, IT WAS JUST DEVASTATING, ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING TO SEE EVERYTHING JUST AND A PILE OF RUBBLE BUT AT THE END OF THAT FIRST SERVICE, THEY HAD US ALL GO OUT IN THE PARKING LOT AND WE ALL HELD HANDS IN A CIRCLE AND WE WERE IN THE SUNSHINE AND WE WERE ALL WELL AND SAFE AND IT JUST WAS VERY POWERFUL MOMENT TO SEE THAT -- THAT THE FIRE COULDN'T KILL OUR SPIRIT. THERE WERE MANY FIRE DEPARTMENTS AND EMERGENCY AGENCIES INVOLVED IN COORDINATING FIREFIGHTING AND EVACUATION DURING THE MAY FIRE -- MAY WILDFIRES AND AFTER THE FIRES WERE OUT, THERE WAS TIME TO ASSESS HOW THE AGENCIES TO CHARGE. JOIN ME ARE AGAIN RON LANE, DEPUTY CHIEF ADMINISTRATOR OFFICER FOR THE COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO. THANK YOU FOR STICKING WITH US, RON . MY PLEASURE BILL EARLY, CEO OF THE PENTAGON IMPERIAL COUNTIES CHAPTER OF THE AMERICAN RED CROSS. THANK YOU . STEVE VANDERBURG, SENIOR METEOROLOGIST WITH SAN DIEGO GAS AND ELECTRIC. THANK YOU . RON, HOW MANY DIFFERENT ENTITIES WERE INVOLVED AND THE FIREFIGHTING EFFORTS AT THE HEIGHT OF THOSE FIRES? THERE ARE WELL OVER 100 AGENCIES PAY 45 REPRESENTATIVES AND OUR EMERGENCY ROOM -- OPERATION CENTER REPRESENTING SAN DIEGO GAS AND ELECTRIC RED CROSS AND EVERYTHING ELSE. THERE WERE DOZENS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, DOZENS OF FIREFIGHTING AGENCIES. WE HAD MUTUAL AID AND SUPPORT FROM UP AND DOWN THE COAST. WE HAD A LOT OF FIRE FROM LOS ANGELES COUNTY COMING ON THE THIRD DAY IN THE COCOS FIRE. WHAT WE HEAD OVER 1300 FIRE PERSONNEL ASSIGNED. IT WAS TRULY A REGIONAL EFFORT AND NOT TO FORGET THE MILITARY WHO PLAYED A CRITICAL ROLE BY PROVIDING UP TO 30 AIRCRAFT. AND WERE A GAME CHANGER IN THE CANYONS OF THE COCOS FIRE . HOW DID THAT AFFECT COMMUNICATIONS AND COORDINATION HAVING THIS ARRAY OF PEOPLE WHO ALL HAD TO BASICALLY BE ON THE SAME PAGE? ) WE PRACTICE THAT YEAR AROUND. FOR EXAMPLE, ON THE MILITARY AIRCRAFT, THEY HAD AN EXERCISE A FEW WEEKS AGO WELL CAL FIRE TRAIN WITH THE MILITARY PIRATES. IN AN INCIDENT LIKE THIS, THEY ARE OUR TRAINING AND THEY HAVE WORKED OUT PROTOCOLS. WE AS A REGION TO REGULAR DISASTER DRILLS AND WE HAVE ONE COMING UP NEXT WEEK AS A MATTER FACT. WHERE WE BRING THE AGENCIES TOGETHER. THAT'S THE PURPOSE OF OUR COUNTY'S EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER IS TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS A COORDINATED SYNCHRONIZED RESPONSE TO ALL DISASTERS AND WE BELIEVE WE DO THAT VERY WELL. AND HE THOUGHT PERHAPS STREAMLINING BECAUSE EVEN WITH A WELL OILED COMMUNICATION MACHINE, THAT IS AN AWFUL LOT OF PEOPLE TO KEEP INFORMED . YES, AND WE ARE ALWAYS TRYING TO FIND NEW WAYS TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE PUBLIC. FOR EXAMPLE, WE HAVE LEARNED OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF MAJOR FIRES THAT DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS GATHER NEWS DIFFERENTLY. SO WE HAVE REACHED OUT AND WE HAVE A PARTNER RELAY OF ADVOCACY GROUPS AND OTHERS THAT CAN WORK WITH LANGUAGE -- DIFFERENT LANGUAGES AND DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES WITH THEM OUR COMMUNITY TO ENSURE THAT THE MESSAGE IS GETTING OUT TO ALL RESIDENTS OF WHAT IS GOING ON AS FAR AS EMERGENCY AND WHAT THE ACTION SHOULD BE . KPBS NEWS AND DIGITAL CHARACTER LAURA WINGARD WAS WORKING ON THE INTERNET UPDATES DURING THE 2014 WILDFIRES. THESE ARE PROBLEMS YOU REMEMBER IT WASN'T ALWAYS EASY FOR REPORTERS TO DO WHAT THEY NEEDED TO INFORM THE PUBLIC OF THE WEEK OF WILDFIRES BEGAN IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY LAST MAY. ON THE FIRST DAY WHEN THE RANCHO BERNARDO FIRE WAS BURNING FROM RANCHO BERNARDO TOWARD RANCHO SANTA FE, SAN DIEGO COUNTY OFFICIALS POSTED ON THE WEBSITE THAT 20,000 HOMES WERE BEING EVACUATED. TURNED OUT THAT NUMBER WAS WRONG. IT WAS ONLY 5000 HOMES. TORREY PINES HIGH WAS DESIGNATED DIMENSIONALLY AS AN EMERGENCY SHELTER FOR EVACUEES THEM ABOUT OFFICIALS MOVED INTO RANCHO BERNARDO HIGH. THE NEWS MEDIA GOT CONFLICTING INFORMATION ABOUT THE CHANGE AND SO DID THE RED CROSS WHICH WAS THE SHELTERS. AND THE 211 SYSTEM WHERE PEOPLE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO CALL TO FIND OUT ABOUT EVACUATIONS AND OTHER INFORMATION IN A DISASTER, WELL, HE DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS TO WORK THE PHONES. YOU COULD BE ON HOLD FOR 20 MINUTES IN WHICH WAS A VERY HELPFUL IF YOU WOULD TRY TO ROUND UP YOUR VOICES AND TAKEN TO AN EMERGENCY SHELTER. POLICE, FIRE, AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS GOT BETTER RECORD NATIVE THE DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION AS THE WEEK WENT ON AND THAT HELPED THEM NEWS MEDIA DO ITS JOB TO KEEP THE PUBLIC UPDATED . RON, I KNOW YOU HAVE HEARD ALL OF THESE GUYS ALL OF THESE COMPLAINTS AND ALL OF THIS RUNDOWN OF PROBLEMS BEFORE. GIVE US AN IDEA OF HOW THE COUNTY HAS ADDRESS SOME OF THESE ISSUES . WE CONDUCTED AN AFTER ACTION REPORT AFTER THE MAY WILDFIRES WITH 21 RECOMMENDATIONS INCLUDING SOME OF THE ONES YOU JUST LISTED HERE IF NOT ALL OF THEM. AND WE HAVE IMPLEMENTED THEM ALL PEOPLE REASONABLE, ON THE 211, THAT SYSTEM WORKED FINE FOR THE ONE FIRE, BUT WHEN WE HAD TWO, THREE, SIX AND WE HAD CALL COMING IN FROM ALL OVER, WE REALIZED THAT HAVING 30 OPERATORS WAS NOT ENOUGH. SO WE HAVE NOW IMPLEMENTED A PLAN TO HAVE OVER 100 OPERATORS WITHIN TWO HOURS OF EVERY INCIDENT. SO WE HAVE ADDRESSED THESE ISSUES. COMMUNICATIONS IN THE FIRST FEW HOURS OF ANY DISASTER IS ALWAYS A CHALLENGE AS THEY ARE -- WE RELY ON DIFFERENT ENTITIES TO PROVIDE US INFORMATION AND THERE IS NOT ALWAYS ACCURATE INFORMATION COMING FROM THE FIELD AS THE DISASTER UNFOLDS. SO WE TAKE THIS VERY SERIOUSLY AND WE HAVE A LOT OF RESOURCES DEDICATED TO IT AND WE ARE DEDICATED AT THE COUNTY TO MAKE SURE THAT MOST ACCURATE INFORMATION IS PUT OUT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE AND AS SOON AS A MAP COMES IN FROM INCIDENT COMMAND POPE -- POSTAL WE RECEIVE INFORMATION, WE IMMEDIATELY PUT IT OUT ON THE WEBSITE THAT HAD OVER 2 MILLION HITS DURING THE FIRES AND HAS TWITTER FEEDS AND EVERYTHING ELSE SO THAT RESIDENTS CAN GET IMMEDIATE INFORMATION AND WE ALSO HAVE A SAN DIEGO EMERGENCY AT THAT PEOPLE HAVE IN THE PHONES SO THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE TO GO GET THE INFORMATION. WE WILL SEND IT DIRECTLY TO THEM SO THEY RECEIVE IT ON THE PHONES. WE ARE TRYING OUR BEST TO MITIGATE SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT CAME UP AND WE CERTAINLY TAKE PRIDE IN THE FACT THAT FOR THE MOST PART, OUR PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS HERE IN SAN DIEGO ARE STATE-OF-THE-ART . BILL EARLY, HOW DO YOU ASSESS THE CONFUSION ABOUT THE RED CROSS SHELTERS DURING THE WILDFIRES LAST YEAR? DID THAT HAMPER YOUR EFFORTS? MAUREEN, THANK YOU FOR RAISING THEM. FIRST OF ALL, YOU MAY KNOW THAT I WAS NOT WITH THE RED CROSS AT THAT TIME. MY UNDERSTANDING IS WE WORK CLOSELY WITH COUNTY OFFICER EMERGENCY SERVICES AND OTHER PARTNERS. I CANNOT TELL YOU ANECDOTALLY ABOUT ANY PARTICULAR STORY ABOUT ANYONE WHO WAS HARMED IN ANY WAY FROM THAT, BUT I WILL TELL YOU WERE ALL VERY COMMITTED TO MAKING SURE THAT WE ARE COMMUNICATING AT THE HIGHEST DEGREE POSSIBLE. YOU HAVE BEEN TIMES -- AS A FORMER LAWYER, A RECOVERING LAWYER, YOU ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS THE ONE QUESTION I HAVE, WHAT HAVE LED TO CIRCUMSTANCES WERE SHELTERS HAVE CHANGED? AND I THINK SOME OF OUR OTHER GUESTS WILL GIVE YOU PERHAPS BETTER INSIGHT INTO THAT. BUT WE GO THROUGH THE AFTER ACTION AND WE MAKE SURE OUR TEAMS ARE DEDICATED TO ALLEVIATING THAT HUMAN SUFFERING NOT CAUSING ANY ADDITIONAL SUFFERING . WHEN YOU HAVE FAST-MOVING WILDFIRES, AND EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE SEVERAL OF THEM AT THE SAME TIME AND AS THEY -- AS RON WAS SAYING, THERE IS ALWAYS THIS AREA OF SORT OF PANIC, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE WELL REHEARSED ON THE SPHINX. WHICH AGENCY DESIGNATES THE SHELTER AREA? IS THAT THE RED CROSS OR THE COUNTY OR THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT? WE'RE WORKING VERY CLOSELY WITH COUNTY OH YES. THEY ARE SHARING THAT INFORMATION WITH US. THE GOOD NEWS IS WE HAVE OVER 700 SHELTER PARTNERS WITH AGREEMENTS WITH US ALREADY IN PLACE. SO WE REALLY HAVE A GREAT DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY TO OPEN IN AN AREA THAT IS DESIGNATED AS A SAFE AREA . SO YOU ALREADY HAVE THOSE CONTRACTS IN PLACE. WE DO . WHEN THERE'S A FIRE AT A CERTAIN AREA OF THE COUNTY, YOU ALREADY HAVE A DESIGNATED SHELTER AREA ALL SET UP, NOT SET UP BUT BASICALLY READY TO GO . WE DO. WHICH AGAIN, THAT IS TO THE PLANNING OF THE YEARS. THOSE THAT HAVE GONE BEFORE US HAVE FIGURED OUT HOW WELL-INTENTIONED PEOPLE MIGHT BE BUT WE HAVE TO BE PREPARED. IN OUR CASE, THESE ARE SHELTERS THAT ACCOMMODATE ANYWHERE FROM A COUPLE DOZEN PEOPLE TO THOUSAND OR MORE APPEARED SO WE REALLY LOOK TO SEE WHAT IS THE BEST SIZE, BEST LOCATION ON SAFEST, BEST INGRESS EGRESS AND WE READY FOR THAT PARTICULAR RESPONSE AND THAT EMERGENCY, NO MATTER WHETHER IT'S FIRE -- WILDFIRE OR OTHER EMERGENCY . WHEN PEOPLE COME TO RED CROSS SHELTER, DO YOU GIVE THEM ANY ADVICE ABOUT WHAT TO BRING WITH THEM AND WHAT NOT TO BRING WITH THEM? FOR INSTANCE, ARE PEOPLE ALLOWED TO BRING HOUSEHOLD PETS WITH THEM? REGARDING PETS, CERTAINLY, THOSE SERVICE ANIMALS, THOSE TO MAKE IT INTO THE SHELTERS BUT WE HAVE GREAT PARTNERS WHO ACTUALLY ARE SPECIALISTS AS IT RELATES TO ANIMAL CARE. SO OFTEN TIMES, THEY ARE SET UP ADJACENT TO THE SHELTER SO FOLKS CAN HAVE ACCESS TO THEIR PETS BECAUSE I WILL TELL YOU, THOSE ARE FAMILY MEMBERS, JUST FOUR-LEGGED OR OTHERWISE AND PEOPLE WANT THOSE AS PART OF THAT HELPING TO ALLEVIATE HUMAN SUFFERING. IN GENERAL, NO THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THE SHELTERS THEMSELVES. WHICH YOU PEOPLE TAKE WITH THEM INTO THE SHELTER? FIRST OF ALL, THEY SHOULD BE PREPARED. SO I DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH TIME WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT PREPAREDNESS BUT I DIRECT PEOPLE TO PREPARE SAN DIEGO.ORG HAS ALL THE INFORMATION THEY NEED SO THEY CAN BE PREPARED. THIS IS A GREAT DAY. THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS BECAUSE THIS REALLY HIGHLIGHTS THE NECESSITY WHEN ONLY 7% OF THE PEOPLE IN THE REGION ARE ACTUALLY PREPARE FOR MAJOR DISASTER EMERGENCY. 93% OR NOT. THAT TELLS EVERYONE WHAT THEY NEED AND WHAT TO GATHER UP AHEAD OF TIME, SO THEY DON'T HAVE TO THINK. IF THEY GET THAT KNOCK, THE REVERSE 911 CALL, THEY HAVE TO GO, THEY SHOULD BE READY TO GO . . DENVER, REMIND US WHAT THE WEATHER CONDITIONS WERE LIKE THAT YEAR THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE FIRE OUTBREAKS? TO SET THE STAGE, IF YOU RECALL, THAT WAS ACTUALLY THE SECOND SANTA ANA WINDS EVENT WE HAD IN TWO WEEKS PICK THE FIRST ONE AT THE END OF APRIL WAS ONE OF THE STRONGEST WE'VE SEEN ON RECORDS. WITH ONE OF THEM UP I WENT TO THE BACKCOUNTRY. AND THEN TWO WEEKS LATER, HERE WE ARE AGAIN, IN THE MIDDLE OF MAY WE ARE SEEING VERY STRONG SANTA ANA WINDS, WHICH IS UNUSUAL THIS LATE IN THE SEASON. THE COMBINATION OF ALL THOSE WEATHER CONDITIONS AND THE STATE OF THE VEGETATION MADE THAT THE FOURTH HIGHEST RISK EVENT IN 30 YEARS AND DISCOUNTED . WHILE . SO WE WERE LOOKING AT AN EXTREME CENTER INTO AN EXTREME FIRE POTENTIAL, PARTICULARLY FOR THE MONTH OF MAY. TYPICALLY, MAY WE ARE NOT DEALING WITH THIS KIND OF ACTIVITY . HOW STRONG WEATHER WAS BLOWING? A LOT OF OUR BACKCOUNTRY AREAS WERE ANYWHERE FROM 50-70 MILES PER HOUR. A NUMBER OF THOSE WIND PRONE AEROSOL WIND GUSTS OVER HURRICANE FORCE. I THINK THE STRONGEST WIND GUST THAT WE MEASURED WAS CLOSE TO 90 MILES PER HOUR. AND THE THING THAT ALSO MADE THIS SANTA ANNA VERY UNUSUAL IS THAT THE STRONG WINDS MADE IT ALMOST ALL THE WAY TO THE COAST SO AROUND THE COCOS FIRE, WE HAVE THE WEATHER CENTER THAT STATION NEAR THAT WAS RECORDING WIND GUSTS OF EXCESS OF 50 MILES PER HOUR. YOU HEARD EARLIER THAT THE POINSETTIA FIRE, WAS ESTIMATED TO BE ABOUT 40 MILES PER HOUR. TYPICALLY, EVEN WHEN WE DO GET STRONG WINDS AND BACKCOUNTRY, THOSE ARE USUALLY NOT REACHING THE COAST. AND THAT IS WHAT WE HAD A MAY APPEAR STRONG WINDS REACHING THE COAST, PLUS WE WORK SEVERAL YEARS INTO A PRETTY SIGNIFICANT DROUGHT BY THAT POINT. VEGETATION WAS MUCH DRIER THAN NORMAL . SO WE ARE DESCRIBING THE WEATHER CONDITIONS OF MAY 2014. FAST FORWARD TO NOW AND SAN DIEGO HAS A NEW TOOL TO ACTUALLY ASSESS THE RISK LEVEL OF SANTA ANA. AND YOU ARE VERY INVOLVED IN THAT. TELL US ABOUT THAT . LAST TIME WE WERE HERE ABOUT WHEN YOU THOUGH WE WERE TALKING ABOUT A PROJECT WE WERE WORKING ON WITH UCLA AND PREDICTIVE SERVICES. PREDICTIVE SERVICES IS THE METEOROLOGY GROUP FOR THE FOREST SERVICE. IN THIS PROJECT WAS BASICALLY A PROJECT THAT WAS TO RATE THE SEVERITY OF SANTA ANA WIND EVENTS WITH RESPECT TO FIRE POTENTIAL. IN THE SAME KIND OF WAY THAT HURRICANE GETS RATED. SO ANYBODY ON THE EAST COAST IS FAMILIAR WITH THAT IF YOU HAVE A HURRICANE COMING, YOU WANT TO KNOW IS THAT A ONE, OR IS IT A CAT FIVE BECAUSE THAT IS GOING TO DETERMINE YOUR LEVEL OF PREPAREDNESS, RESPONSE, AND SO THAT IS WHAT WE'VE DONE. AND NOW IT'S THE OFFICIAL PRODUCT THAT THE FOUR SERVICE, PUT -- PREDICTIVE SERVICES ISSUES EVERY DAY. AND IT IS HE BASICALLY A RATING FOR HOW BAD THE SANTA ANA WINDS EVENT IS FOR TODAY OF AN EXIT FACED . DO HAVE THE ABILITY TO MICROCLIMATE IT TO? IT COULD BE PERHAPS A CAT FIVE IN THE EAST COUNTY, BUT A LESSER CATEGORY CLOSER TO THE COAST. TO BASICALLY IS RATED BY ZONES, SO SAN DIEGO IS ITS OWN ZONE. OKAY . THE THING THAT'S POWERFUL BUT THE TOOL IS THAT BECAUSE WE FIGURED OUT A WAY TO COMBINE ALL OF THIS WEATHER INFORMATION AND THIS VEGETATION INFORMATION INTO WHAT WE CALCULATE OUT AS A LARGE FIRE POTENTIAL, AND WERE CALCULATING THESE NUMBERS EVERY DAY. RUNNING IT EVERY DAY ON THESE MODELS. FROM HERE ON OUT, GOING FORWARD, ANY SANTA ANA WHEN EVENT WE HAVE IN THE FUTURE, THERE'S A RED FLAG WARNING ISSUED, WE CAN PUT IT INTO HISTORICAL CONTEXT. AND SAY THIS IS HOW WE KNOW THAT THE MAIN EVENT WAS THE FOURTH HIGHEST RISK EVENT HERE AND THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT EVERYBODY TO TREAT EVERY SANTA ANA WINDS EVENT A RED FLAG WARNING LIGHT OCTOBER 27 -- 2007. BUT WHEN YOU HAVE A SIGNIFICANT THREAT, THAT BRINGS YOU INTO A TOP-FIVE OR 1% KIND OF EVENT GET THAT IS WHEN YOU NEED EVERYBODY TO BE REALLY PAYING ATTENTION AND TO REALLY GET PREPARED AND BE ABLE TO RESPOND . SHOULD WE EXPECT TO START SEEING AND HEARING ABOUT THIS AND A NORMAL WEATHER REPORT WE WOULD SEE ON TV OR IN RADIO? YES, IN FACT, THIS PAST SEASON WHEN WE WENT INTO THE FALL, WHEN THERE WERE RED FLAG WARNINGS ISSUED OR SANTA ANA WINDS WERE IN THE FORECAST, SEVERAL OF THE LOCAL MEDIA STATIONS WERE REPORTING WHAT THE SANTA ANA WILDFIRE THREAT INDEXES AND IT GETS RATED FROM ANYWHERE FROM MARGINAL THREAT ALL THE WAY TO EXTREME. RON LANE, BUT THE COUNTY'S ASSESSMENT OF THE 2014 WILDFIRE RESPONSE AND THE RECENT GRAND JURY REPORT FOUND THAT OUR FIRE FIGHTING CAPABILITIES HAD IMPROVED HANDS-DOWN IMPROVED SINCE 2007. WHAT ARE SOME OF THOSE ADVANCEMENTS? WE HAVE TAKEN A STRONG LOOK AT THE BACKCOUNTRY TO MAKE SURE WE HAVE A CORRELATED RESPONSE. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS HAS INVESTED A TERMINUS AMOUNT OF MONEY TO MAKE SURE WE HAVE ALL OF THE RESOURCES, BOTH AIR AND GROUND NECESSARY TO PROVIDE DAY-TO-DAY FIRE SERVICES AS WELL AS TO ASSIST COW FIRE AND OTHER AGENCIES ON WILDLAND FIRES LIKE WE SAW WHEN YEAR AGO TODAY. WE HAVE NOW THREE COUNTY FIRE HELICOPTERS IN ADDITION TO THE STEW IN THE CITY SO THIS FIRE SEASON THERE IS GOING TO BE WHEN YOU COMBINE WITH US FOUR SERVICE AND COW FIRE, THERE WILL BE CHANT DASHCAM AIRCRAFT STATIONED IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY TO RESPOND TO FIRES WITHOUT HAVING TO RELY ON ANYBODY ELSE COMING IN. LIKEWISE, BACKCOUNTRY HAS 44 ENGINES MANNED EVERY DAY WHOSE MAIN FOCUS IS WILDLAND FIRE RESPONSE. SO WE'VE ALSO PROVIDED PARAMEDIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT EIGHT STATIONS IN THE BACKCOUNTRY. SO WE COMBINE 14 SEPARATE FIRE STATIONS BEFORE 2008, PART-TIME VOLUNTEER SERVICE AND NOW THEY HAVE CAREER FIREFIGHTERS WITH PARAMEDIC CAPABILITY PROVIDING SERVICES TO THOSE AREAS GRAND JURY REPORT ALSO RECOMMENDED THAT THE COUNTY FIRE AUTHORITY WORKED TO EXPAND ITS AGREEMENTS TO INCLUDE ALL BACKCOUNTRY FIRE AGENCIES. WITH ACCOUNT TO BE WORKING ON THAT? WE WELCOME OTHER AGENCIES THAT ARE IN THE BACKCOUNTRY OR IN THE UNINCORPORATED AREA, BUT WE HAVE ALREADY COMBINED IN THE COMPLETION THAT WE JUST DID THIS YEAR, THE 14 FIRE AGENCIES WERE UNDERSERVED. THE REMAINING AREAS ALL HAVE PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTING SERVICES AND PRETTY SOPHISTICATED FIRE DEPARTMENTS. TO THE EXTENT THAT SOME MAY FIND THAT IT IS IN THEIR BEST INTEREST TO JOIN THE FIRE AUTHORITY AND COMBINED WITH US AS ECONOMIES OF SCALE THAT SCALE, THAT WOULD BE GREAT BUT IT'S UP TO THOSE INDEPENDENT FIRE DISTRICT IN THE BACKCOUNTRY TO MAKE THAT DECISION. BUT WE CERTAINLY WOULD WELCOME THEM IF IT WORKS OUT TO THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR CITIZENS BACK THANK YOU TO ALL RON LANE, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER FOR SAN DIEGO AND BILL EARLY, CEO OF THE SENEGAL CHAPTER OF THE AMERICAN RED CROSS, AND STEVE VANDERBURG, SENIOR METEOROLOGIST WITH SAN DIEGO GAS AND ELECTRIC BIG THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH . THANK YOU. WHEN DRIVEN DISTRACTIVE WILDFIRES THAT SAN DIEGANS KNOW ALL TOO WELL. THE CEDAR FIRE OF 2003 WAS THE LARGEST WILDFIRE IN CALIFORNIA'S RECORDED HISTORY AND THE 2007 WHICH CREEK FIRES DESTROYED 1500 HOMES AND CLAIM 14 LIES. AS FIRE OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO REMIND US IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY, THE QUESTION IS NOT IF WE GET ANOTHER FILE/WILDFIRE BUT WHEN. JOINING ME TO LOOK AHEAD AT OUR PREPARATION FOR THE NEXT FIRE ARE ALEX TARDY, METEOROLOGIST WITH THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE. WELCOME . THANK YOU . AND JEFF CHUMLEY IS DOING IS AGAIN THE BATTALION CHIEF WITH THE CARLSBAD FIRE DEPARTMENT. THANK YOU FOR STICKING AROUND, JUST HIT YOU'RE WELCOME TO EXPECT MY FANTASY HEAR FROM SAN DIEGO FIRE-RESCUE, SR. BURGESS. THANK YOU FOR COMING . THANK YOU FOR THE INVITATION . BRIAN, WE ARE IN THE FOURTH YEAR OF DROUGHT IN CALIFORNIA. WHAT DOES THAT ACTUALLY DO TO INCREASE OUR FIRE IS? CLEARLY, THE DROUGHT IS INCREASED THE RISK EXPONENTIALLY. THE LITTLE BIT OF RAIN WE HAD, ALEX CAN TALK MORE ABOUT IT, IT'S CAUSING US CONCERNED BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT GOTTEN SUSTAINED PERIODS OF HEAVY RAIN. WE'VE GOT RAIN AND SUN AND RAIN AND SUN, THERE'S A GRASS CROP THAT IS GROWN THROUGHOUT THE COUNTY THAT WE HAVE NOTHING IN YEARS. THIS GRASS CROP, WHEN IT GROWS OUT -- DRIES OUT IN TEARS THAT WILL CARRY FIRES INTO THE HEAVY ALREADY DEAD AND DECADENT RUSH. WE'RE VERY CONCERNED THIS YEAR. I BELIEVE YOU WILL SEE THE NUMBER OF FIRES ACTUALLY SPIKED BECAUSE OF THE ONES THAT WERE NOT IT MAY BE CARRIED IN YEARS PAST ARE GOING TO CARRY THIS YEAR . ALEX, HOW DRY IS IT? I KNOW WE'VE HEARD 12 MILLION DEAD TREES IN CALIFORNIA'S NATIONAL FOREST? THE STATE ON DASHES UNDER THE FOUR-YEAR DROUGHT MISSING 1 TO 2 SEASONS OF PRECIPITATION IN FOUR YEARS. SO 50% STATEWIDE, STATEWIDE, 26 INCHES OF RAIN BELOW NORMAL. YOU CAN TALK ABOUT THE NUMBERS FOR HOURS, BUT THE BOTTOM LINE IS WE ARE IN TERRITORY WE HAVEN'T SEEN BEFORE AS RECORD DROUGHT BEFORE YOUR PERIOD BRIAN, ALL KINDS OF CHALLENGES DO THE DROUGHT PRESENT FOR ACTUAL FIREFIGHTING EFFORTS? WILL FIREFIGHTERS HAVE ACCESS TO ADEQUATE WATER SUPPLIES? SOMETHING THAT IS UNIQUE THAT WE ARE SEEING AN EXPECTANCY EVEN MORE SO THIS YEAR IS HOW QUICK THE PFIZER SPREADING. WE HAVE WITHIN THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO AND WITHIN MOST OTHER CITIES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTY WHAT WE CONSIDER THESE OPEN-SPACE ISLANDS, OVERSIZE, THESE ARE THE AREAS THAT ARE SURROUNDED BY STRUCTURES AND THE WILDLAND URBAN IN A SPACE MAY BE SMALL ACRES SIDE, 3 ACRES, 50 ACRES, PFIZER STARTING IN INNER-CITY KENYANS AND BECAUSE THE FUEL IS SO DRY AND THE WEATHER SO DRY, THESE PFIZER SPREADING SO MUCH FASTER THAN WHAT WE'RE USED TO, NORMAL RESPONSE OF GROUND CREWS AND AIRCRAFT ARE NOT CATCHING THEM QUICKLY. LAST YEAR WAS AN ANOMALY IN TERMS OF USE TO SEEING FIRES COME OUT OF THE BACK COUNTRY AND BURN HOMES AND CAUSE PROBLEMS. IF YOU LOOK AT LAST YEAR, WHETHER CITY OF SAN DIEGO, CARLSBAD, SAN MARCO'S, IN OSI AREAS ARE NOT -- LONG-DURATION FIRES, NOT LARGE IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU SEE NATIONALLY BUT DEVASTATING FIRES IN TERMS OF LIVES THREATEN AND PROPERTY THAT WAS DESTROYED. IN TERMS OF YOUR QUESTION ON THE WATER SOURCES, WE OPERATE A COUPLE OF FIREFIGHTING AIRCRAFT AS DOES THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT AND WE ARE SEEING NORMAL SOURCES OUT IN THE OUTLYING AREAS AND CITY AND COUNTY ARE DRIVE OR NONEXISTENT. NOT AS BIG AN ISSUE WITHIN THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO BECAUSE OUR AIRCRAFT ARE EQUIPPED TO BE FILLED BY HIGH DRIBBLE WHEN YOU GET INTO THE EASTERN NORTH COUNTY OR SOME OF THE MORE RURAL AREAS, TURNAROUND TIMES FOR THOSE AIRCRAFT GOING TO MAKE SOME OF THE WATER SOURCES ARE GOING TO BE SIGNIFICANT AND THEY WILL AFFECT THE DEGREE WE CAN SUPPRESS THESE FIRES . JEFF CHUMLEY, ARE THERE CERTAIN AREAS OF THE COUNTY THAT HAVE NOT BURNED FOR A WHILE THAT LOCAL FIRE AGENCIES ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT? ABSOLUTELY. THERE'S AREAS IF YOU TAKE CARLSBAD AS AN EXAMPLE, ONE SMALL AREA AS CHIEF MENTIONED, ISLANDS ARE OUT THERE, SEVERAL ERRORS IN CARLSBAD. EVERY CITY HAS THEM AND THEY ARE THROUGHOUT THE COUNTY HERE WE HAVE AREAS THAT HAVE BURNED BEFORE SO THE BRUSH WILL NOT BE AS TALL AS A WOULD-BE BUT THERE ARE AREAS THAT HAVE NOT BURNED ALSO OUR LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENTS DOING ASSESSMENTS NOW THAT THEY HAVEN'T REALLY DONE BEFORE IN TERMS OF RISK AREAS IN CONCERNING THE POPULATION AS WELL? POPULATION MAY BE ELDERLY, POPULATION MAY NOT HAVE ACCESS TO CARS AND SO FORTH. ISN'T THERE SOME SORT OF DETERMINATION AM A BRIAN, AS TO WHICH POPULATIONS MIGHT BE PARTICULARLY THREATENED BY THE OPERATOR FIRE? EACH LOCAL GOVERNING AGENCY, I'M ASSUMING THE STATE AS WELL. WE DO THOSE TYPES OF RISK ASSESSMENTS. WE GENERALLY KNOW AND THE LOCAL FIRE COMPANIES KNOW WHERE THE POPULATIONS EXIST. WE ARE CERTAINLY OUT THERE COMMUNICATING WITH THEM. I SHARED EARLIER, THE READY SET GO GUIDE THAT THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE CHIEFS DEVELOPED. THAT PROVIDES MOST RESIDENTS AND FAMILIES OF THOSE RESIDENTS WITH TOOLS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE EVENT OF A FIRE, WHAT TO DO ONCE A FIRE BEGINS AND WHEN WE SAY TO EVACUATE, WHAT TO EXPECT THE EVACUATION. THE COUNTY HAS DONE A GREAT JOB WITH THE ALERT SAN DIEGO AND WHAT WE SHOULD CALL THE REVERSE 911 CALL BACK. SO MUCH POSITIVE HAS HAPPENED SINCE 2003, 2007 IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU SAID, IDENTIFYING WHERE THESE RISK POPULATIONS WERE AND WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO TO EVACUATE THEM AND HELP PREPARE THEM AND THE EVENTS OF THE FIRE. I WANT TO GO BACK TO THE WEATHER. LAST YEAR AS WE HEARD, ALEX, IN THE LAST SEGMENT, CONDITIONS WERE VERY DRY AND VERY CONDUCIVE TO FIRE. AFTER THE MAY WILDFIRES, WE WERE PREPARING FOR A HELLACIOUS YEAR OF BRUSH FIRES. EVERYBODY WAS SAYING THAT DOWN THE HATCHES, THIS IS GOING TO BE A TERRIBLE YEAR. BUT THAT REALLY DID NOT HAPPEN. SO WHAT WEATHER CONDITIONS PREVENTED THE WORST FROM HAPPENING LAST YEAR? CERTAINLY, WE HAD SOME LUCK AND MAYBE A LOT OF WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING, TALKING TO THE PUBLIC IS HELPING AS WELL. TO AVOID SOME OF THESE ACCIDENTS AND MISTAKES THAT HAVE A BIT WE CANNOT STOP THE LIGHTNING, BUT IN TERMS OF DROUGHT AND HOW SEVERE IT WAS LAST YEAR, LAST YEAR WAS ONE OF THE DRY SEASONS ON RECORD, 2013-2020 COMPARED TO 76-77. AND THERE WAS NO GRASS TO BURN. SO WE DIDN'T HAVE MUCH GRASS TO SPREAD FIRES AND GET THEM INTO BIGOTRIES AND THE THICKER FUELS. THAT IS PART OF THE REASON. NO ONE KNOWS FOR SURE, BUT THERE SEVERAL FACTORS INCLUDING THE BLOCK, TIMING, THE FACT THERE WAS NO GRASS TO BURN DURING THE WHOLE SEASON LAST YEAR. THIS YEAR LIKE BRIAN JUST MENTIONED, IT'S A DIFFERENT STORY BECAUSE WE HAVE A LOT OF RAIN IN DECEMBER, A LOT OF RAIN IN DECEMBER. PERFECT TIMING FOR NATIVE VEGETATION, PERENNIALS, ANNUALS AND THEN WE JUST HAVE MORE MAINLY RECENTLY. WE ARE GOING TO GET RAIN FRIDAY WHICH MAY IMPACT OUR ANNUALS TO HELP THEM GREEN APPEARED WE KNOW THEY WILL DRY OUT BECAUSE OF THE LONG SUMMER, EVEN WHEN WE ARE NOT IN THE DROUGHT WHAT YOU ARE SAYING NOW, THE RAIN NOW THAT WE GOT LAST WEEK THAT WE ARE DISSIPATING AT THE END OF THIS WEEK, IS ONLY GOING TO INCREASE OUR PROBLEM BECAUSE IT IS NOT ENOUGH BUT JUST ENOUGH TO INCREASE THE FUEL? WE ARE IN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE RIGHT NOW WITH THE WEATHER. THE PAST FOUR YEARS, RECORD BREAKING TEMPERATURES IN MARCH WHICH IS PROMOTING GROWTH COME AS LONG AS YOU HAVE MOISTURE. SO YES, THE RAIN IS BENEFICIAL IN WAYS AND BUYS US SOME TIME. IT'S A COMPLETE 180 DEGREES FROM LAST YEAR IN THE MID-90s AND SANTA ANA WINDS AND NOW WE'RE LOOKING AT SIGNIFICANT RAISES FRIDAY LUCK WAS ON LAST FRIDAY. BUT THERE IS A DOWNSIDE. IT'S GOING TO PROMOTE SOME GROWTH LIKE BRIAN WAS TALKING ABOUT -- BRIAN WAS TALKING ABOUT IN SUBURBAN AND RURAL AREAS. IT WILL BE A CONCERN. IT WILL NOT BE A DEALBREAKER, THE GOOD NEWS IS A BUYS THIS TIME THROUGH MAY TO KEEP OUR FIRE DANGER LOW . HOW FAR OUT DOES THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ACTUALLY DO ITS LONG-RANGE FORECASTING? CAN YOU SORT OF LOOK INTO THE FUTURE AND TELL US WHAT YOU THINK THAT'S WHAT KIND OF SUMMER WE WILL HAVE? WITHOUT GUESSING? WE LOOK OUT 12 MONTHS IN GENERAL. ONE OF THE HARDEST FORECAST WE HAVE IS NOT SEVEN DAYS FROM NOW OR TWO WEEKS FROM NOW, IT'S A MONTH. LITTLE SKILL ABOUT A MONTH, ONE MONTH AND A HALF. WHEN YOU GO OUT THREE, FOUR, FIVE MONTHS LOOKING OUT THAT FAR, WE ACTUALLY HAVE BETTER SKILL. BROADER, GENERALIZATION ABOUT THE WEATHER. THE SUMMER EXPECTATIONS ARE FOR CONTINUED WARMTH. LIKE WE SAW LAST YEAR? YET, LIKE WE SAW LAST YEAR. HIGH HUMIDITY, CONTINUED WARMTH AND MORE MONSOON THUNDERSTORMS. WHEN WE GET LINING ANYWHERE IN CALIFORNIA, WHETHER JUNE OR SEPTEMBER, IT IS NOT GOOD BECAUSE WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN STARTS WITH LIGHTNING AND THE SAN BERNARDINO MONDO -- MOUNTS AND THUNDERSTORMS IN APRIL . LET ME MOVE FROM WHAT WE MAY OR MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT THE WEATHER. [-- TO WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO. AND I REMEMBER, JEFF, DURING THE MAY WILDFIRES, FIRE AGENCY SAID HOMEOWNERS WHO ARE CREATED DEFENSIBLE SPACE AROUND THEIR HOMES REALLY HELPED SAVE A LOT OF STRUCTURES. DID YOU SEE THAT A CALL ? ABSOLUTELY. AND IF YOU LOOK AT THE AFTERMATH, THE PHOTOS AFTER THE FIRE SWEPT THROUGH, YOU COULD SEE CLEARLY WHERE HOMES WERE SAVED BECAUSE OF THE DEFENSIBLE'S RACE. THERE'S A LOT OF GREAT INFORMATION WE CAN GATHER, LEARN FROM AND THAT IS CERTAINLY ONE OF THEM AND THAT IS WHAT WE TRY TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC. WE TRIED TO PREVENT AND PREPARE THEM FOR THE FUTURE AND THAT IS CERTAINLY A WAY THAT INDIVIDUAL HOMEOWNER SCAM HELP TO PREVENT A FIRE FROM GETTING CLOSE TO THE HOME . WE ACTUALLY SAW EXAMPLES OF THAT DURING THE TV COVERAGE OF THE COCOS FIRE IN SAN MARCOS. YOU WOULD SEE THE FIRE BURNED UP HILLS SO FAR AND THEN IF THE HOMEOWNER HAD CREATED THAT SPACE, OFTEN TIMES, MOST OF THE TIME, THAT IS WHERE THE FIRE WAS START . YOU ARE RIGHT. IT WORKS. THE BERNARDO FIRE WAS THE YEAR FROM TODAY, THE FIRST FIRE FROM THE SIEGE. AND AS MUCH AS I GIVE OUR FIREFIGHTERS A LOT OF CREDIT FOR SAVING LIFE AND PROPERTY THAT DAY, I WOULD GIVE THE CITIZENS MORE CREDIT FOR WHAT THEY DID IN ADVANCE OF THE FIRE. NOT ONLY CITIZENS BUT THE LEVERS -- DEVELOPERS, THE FOREST RANCH, ALL OF THOSE AREAS. WE CAN PUT FIRE EQUIPMENT IN EVERY RESIDENCE AND WE TELL PEOPLE THAT. I LITERALLY SAW FIRE MOVE AROUND THOSE AS MUCH AS YOU DID ON THE COCOS FIRE. A BIG -- THEY DESERVE A ROUND OF APPLAUSE. IT WORKS. UNFORTUNATELY, IF YOU GO BACK AND LOOK AT SOME OF THE AREAS THAT BURNED IT DURING 2003, 2007, SOME OF THOSE AREAS -- THOSE FOLKS ARE NOT PAYING HEED TO THE WARNINGS AND AGAIN, WE JUST CANNOT BE AT EVERY ADDRESS . WHAT IS THE COUNTY DOING TO TRY TO ENCOURAGE HOMEOWNERS TO TAKE THESE LESSONS ESPECIALLY IN THE BACKCOUNTRY AND TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT? G CHUMLEY TALKED ABOUT THAT. THROUGH THE READY SET GO PROGRAM AND OTHER PROGRAMS. THE MESSAGES OUT THERE. WE GO DOOR TO DOOR, LEAVING DOOR HANGERS, PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS, A VARIETY OF THINGS OUT THERE, THE INTERNET WHERE YOU CAN GO AND FIGURE OUT WHAT ARE THE RIGHT PLANS TO USE IN PLACE OF DROP RESISTANT RECITATION IN REPLACEMENT OF THE NATIVE VEGETATION. WE ARE AS PEOPLE WANTED TO PUT IT CLEARS FROM HOMES AND CLEARING OUT YOUR RAIN GUTTERS AND DOING ALL OF THOSE THINGS WE NEED TO DO BECAUSE IT IS NOT JUST THE HOMES ON THE PERIMETER OF THE FIRE. THE FLAME FRONT COMES THROUGH, WE'RE LOSING HIM SOMETIMES UPWARDS OF 1 MILE AWAY IF IT IS A WIND DRIVEN FIRE. BLOWING INTO HOMES AND IT -- NEIGHBORHOODS . I WILL ASK YOU BOTH JEFF AND BRIAN. GIVE US SOME BASIC FIRE READINESS REPARATIONS THAT WE ALL COULD DO. WE TALKED ABOUT THE DEFENSIBLE SPACE. WHAT ELSE CAN PEOPLE DO, JEFF? SO MANY THINGS. HAVING A PLAN AS A FAMILY AND BEING READY AND PRIOR TO THOSE EVACUATIONS, JUST EVERYTHING READY TO GO. I THINK PEOPLE WAIT AND THEY WANT TO HOLD ON AND WHEN THEY SEE THE FIRE CLOSE TO THEIR HOME THAT IS WHEN IT REALLY IS TOO LATE. BUT THE PREPARATION HAVING YOUR KIDS READY TO GO. FOR MY WIFE AND I, PERSONALLY WE HAVE THE STUFF THAT WE KNOW WE WANT TO TAKE AND THIS IS SOMETHING AFTER THE WITCH FIRE WE FINALLY WOKE UP AND SAID WE NEED TO HAVE OUR PICTURES AND A SAFE PLACE SO THAT SHE CAN GRAB THEM BECAUSE SHE KNOWS THAT PROBABLY WILL NOT BE HOME TO HELP. THAT IS ONE OF THE THINGS -- DEFENSIBLE SPACE FOR SURE AND UNDERSTANDING WHERE YOU LIVE AND SOMEDAY JUST ASSOCIATED WITH THEM. I DON'T THINK PEOPLE REALIZE THAT ONE THEY ARE IN A CANYON HOW QUICKLY THE FIRE CAN REACH THEIR HOME AND HOW LONG WE HAVE 50-100 FOOT FLAME LENGTHS SOMETHING I'M NOT SURE THEY CAN APPRECIATE TO SAY THE LEAST, HEAT THAT IS IN FRONT OF THE FIRE. THEY WILL GET HIT WITH A WALL OF HEAT WELL BEFORE THEY GET HIT WITH THE FLAME P EXPECT AS YOU SAID, BRIAN, THE COUNTY AND THE CITY HAVE A WHOLE SET OF INSTRUCTIONS FOR PEOPLE IF THEY WANT TO GO ONLINE AND FIND OUT WHAT THEY NEED TO PREPARE FOR IN THE CITY AND AS YOU BOTH HAVE BEEN TELLING US, WE REALLY NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR THIS FIRE SEASON. I WANT TO THANK MY GUESS ALEX STARTED, METEOROLOGIST WITH THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE. JEFF CHUMLEY, CARLSBAD FIRE DEPARTMENT, BRIAN FENNESSY WITH THE SAN DIEGO FIRE RESCUE DEPARTMENT. THANK YOU VERY MUCH . THANK YOU.

A year ago last May, 14 wildfires blackened the San Diego County skies for five days, leaving residents unnerved and sending fire crews into an all-out assault. The fires would become the largest in the region since the devastating fires of October 2007.

Fueled by unseasonable Santa Ana winds, fires charred nearly 27,000 acres, destroying 63 homes in Carlsbad, San Marcos and unincorporated areas of the county. An estimated 121,000 people were asked to evacuate their homes, according to a county report on the fires.

County officials said the wildfires caused $27 million in damage to property and cost $29 million to fight for a total of $56 million.

Unlike San Diego County’s massive wildfires in 2003 and 2007, which started in the backcountry and spread toward the coast, last year’s blazes started in coastal areas and urban canyons.

The Bernardo fire, the first of last year’s blazes, started around 11 a.m. on May 13, 2014. It began in Rancho Bernardo and spread toward Rancho Santa Fe.

“This fire happened in the city of San Diego, which is unusual,” Ron Lane, San Diego County's deputy chief administrator, told KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday. “In the past, the fires always started in East County. This started in the canyons and immediately put homes at risk.”

The Bernardo fire was under control by that night, but that relief was short-lived, Lane said.

“We thought we dodged a bullet that night,” Lane said.

Then the next day, around 10:30 a.m., the Poinsettia fire started in Carlsbad.

“On that day, we evacuated over 50,000 people,” Lane said. “It was a dangerous period when we had so many fires going on all at once.”

He said last May’s wildfires prompted the county to improve its emergency response after it received criticism from the public. Complaints ranged from long wait times to speak to a county operator to misinformation being given to the public.

Lane said the county now has a plan to increase phone operators from 30 to more than 100 during times of emergency.

The USFS is using technology created by San Diego Gas & Electric meteorologists. The Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index rates wind speed and categorizes intensity similar to how tornadoes and hurricanes are rated.

“The thing that’s really powerful about this tool, because we found a way to combine all this weather information, we’re calculating these numbers every day,” said SDG&E senior meteorologist Steve Vanderburg who helped developed the index.

Jeff Chumley, a Carlsbad fire battalion chief, urged San Diego County residents to prepare for disasters by having a plan in place.

“Just have everything ready to go,” Chumley said. “Understand where you live and some of the dangers associated with it.”

For information on how to prepare for disasters, go to preparesandiego.org.

Preparing For San Diego County Fire Season: Lessons Learned From May Wildfires