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Public Safety

SD Residents Cautioned About Wildfires

With stretches of dry, warm and windy weather expected this autumn and city budget cutbacks in the works, it is essential for San Diegans to do all they can to protect themselves from fires, authorities stressed today.

Officials from the San Diego Police Department, Fire-Rescue Department, county Sheriff's Department, U.S. Forest Service and National Weather Service stood under the sizzling late-morning sun in Marian Bear Park in Clairemont Mesa to urge the public to take common-sense steps to make their homes as safe from wildfires as possible.

"You can tell from the heat today how dry the conditions are in San Diego," Fire Chief Javier Mainar said. "You can imagine the challenge it would be to protect this part of the community if a fire was roaring up these hills."

Budget reductions have forced Mainar's department to use 10 percent fewer resources this year. Due to the restricted funds, eight fewer fire engines are available, and additional cuts could mean five more engines will be taken out of operation, he said.

To protect themselves and their property, residents should clear brush around their homes, put screens over household vents, make sure to have sufficient gasoline in their vehicles at all times and keep essential belongings packed in the event of mandatory evacuations, officials said.

"It's time to be prepared," police Chief William Lansdowne said. "If you've been delaying it, it's time to get prepared now."

Should evacuations be announced, residents must leave their homes without delay, Mainar said.

"Get out, and get out (immediately)," he said. "People die because they wait too long to evacuate and then get caught on the road."

The combination of dry weather and gusty Santa Ana winds promise to make fire conditions especially hazardous this fall, said Stefanie Sullivan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"We will have above-normal, large fire potential through November," she said.

Local, state and federal agencies work together to fight fires and now have at their disposal a San Diego Gas & Electric helitanker that can hold 2,000 gallons of water, Mainar noted.

But residents still must be responsible for themselves, he said.

"They have the ability to protect their property and themselves from fire," he said.