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West Fire Anniversary, Protecting Military Bases From Sea Level Rise, Top Weekend Events

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Recovery efforts are still underway one year after the West Fire destroyed 39 homes in Alpine. Also, a new report shows the Pentagon isn’t doing enough to protect military bases from sea level rise, and San Diego’s top weekend events feature tap dancing and hair metal.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego was enjoying a mild and mostly sunny 4th of July weekend, but right about this time last year I heat wave and dry conditions sparked several fires in the county. The worst was the west fire and Alpine destroying 39 homes plus more than 20 other structures. Some of those homeowners are still going through the long process of recovery.

Speaker 2: 00:22 It's still feels very much like the fire just happened and everybody is just, I'm trying hard to stay positive. You can see it in people's faces, everybody's tired, it's exhausting, but also resiliency is floating up to the top and everybody is just head down, get to work and that feels really good.

Speaker 1: 00:44 The West fire reminds all of us of the fire danger that surfaces for San Diego. As soon as the temperature rises and the northeast winds begin to blow. Joining me is Vince Nicoletti, the deputy director of planning and development services for San Diego County. He was the assistant recovery manager for the West Fire and Vince, welcome to the program. Good morning. Can you remind us about where the west fire did the most damage and at kind of how quickly it spread? So the west fire was focused in Alpine, just south of interstate eight. It burned just over 500 acres and burned most of that within the first 24 hours. And it sort of raced through a housing development, didn't it? Correct. It did destroy, uh, 39 homes as part of the fire. What's your role in helping victims of the fire? So at the county of San Diego, we train and do drills throughout the year to assist with recovery after a fire or disaster, um, for fires themselves.

Speaker 1: 01:42 What we do typically is the first step is information. Setting up a hotline or recovery website, pushing information out to the public, but also listening to the interest, the needs from the community, from the survivors, those impacted throughout so that we can connect them with the resources that they're looking for. We set up a local assistance center that has state, uh, local and federal resources, entities like FEMA, Red Cross, wonderful volunteer groups like volunteers after disaster to provide resources all at one central location. We identify specific recovery liaisons that worked for the county that can work with those who lost homes. Let me ask you, in what ways does the liaison help each other? Homeowner who lost their home? So one, having a single point of contact at the county we find is extremely helpful so that they don't have to try navigating through the different departments that are here to help them.

Speaker 1: 02:31 We reach out and call them as soon as we have a contact and let them know. We recognize recovery is a journey. It's a marathon, not a sprint. We're here when they're ready early on. One of the first things we do is we want to find out what their needs are in terms of debris removal. So we offer resources to help with debris removal, connect them with volunteer groups that could also provide assistance with that. Other debris removal steps could be household hazardous waste or vehicle abatement. For those who don't have the ability to remove vehicles that were burned, we can do that for them. There's so many aspects of this. As I mentioned, as you mentioned, 39 homes were lost in this fire, the west fire. How many of those homeowners have decided to rebuild? So at this point we have seven homes that have completed construction, 15 that have obtained a building permit or in the construction phase, and then three more that are in the plan check process. So we have over 55% that have either started or completed construction. The additional three that are in the plan check process. And some people have decided to move away. Well, some people it takes time for them to decide what they want to do. They're working through insurance and weighing their options. We have another clip. Here's one from Tiffany Devlin and her husband Jason, who lost their home in the west fire. Here's Tiffany.

Speaker 2: 03:45 We're lucky to already be moved back into our rebuild and that's a pretty incredible accomplishment that we're really proud of. We, we'll be spending our year anniversary in our new home. But it's hard because you missed the old hope. It's a totally different life now and something that we're stronger for

Speaker 1: 04:06 and it's a year later and people don't keep up with that continuing kind of grief that victims feel, you know, nine mobile homes who were a part of that total number of homes lost. Where is the mobile home park in terms of recovering from this fire? So at this point, a three of the nine mobile homes that were destroyed have rebuilt. Um, we're working with the mobile home park. When they're ready to move forward, oftentimes those individuals might change and move to a different mobile home parks. So it might tank time for them to, to make other options. Now insurance coverage of course is a huge factor in the rebuilding process. Do you have any advice for homeowners in terms of being properly insured? So we recommend people always talk with their individual insurance carriers. Insurance can change from time to time. Uh, especially in southern California in the last 15, 20 years.

Speaker 1: 04:52 So recommendations I make to friends and family is talk to your insurance carrier, make sure each year you know what you have covered and any other tips in terms of being prepared for a wildfire. So talking to local fire districts, couple of key messages that they have is one, people should visit ready San so that they can register their cell phone and download the apps that they're notified should a disaster, like a wildfire breakout. There's also a lot of great information on that website for having disaster preparedness plans for families, kids pets. The other key message point from fire districts has generally been defensible space is a year round responsibility. The Alpine fire protection district indicated that what they saw in the 2018 alpine fire was that defensible space worked. It helped increase the ability for those homes to withstand the fire and it helped the firefighters to better protect those homes. I have been speaking with Vince Nicoletti, the deputy director of planning and development services for San Diego County. Vince, thank you very much. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 A new government report says many military bases aren't moving fast enough to protect themselves from the effects of climate change and they aren't getting proper support from the Pentagon. Jay Price reports for the American homefront project.

Speaker 2: 00:14 The report comes from the government accountability office. It looked at the sample of 23 installations and found most hadn't used projections of climate change effects such as sea level rise. The report said that planners on bases need more direction from the Pentagon in the reports words not assessing risks or using climate projections and installation planning may expose department of defense facilities to greater than anticipated damage or degradation as a result of extreme weather or climate related fabrics. For many installations, that kind of damage isn't just often some distant nebulous future.

Speaker 3: 00:49 Where'd the Farragut field seawall on the campus of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Speaker 2: 00:53 Commander David McKinney is a spokesman for the academy. Those thrumming diesel motors belonged to three of the special 108 foot long boats. Used to teach naval cadets skills like coastal navigation. Sitting beside a waterway is crucial for the Naval Academy, but that water also has become a threat.

Speaker 3: 01:12 What we're looking at right now are some sinkholes that have developed on the seawall that faces the seven river. These have developed over time. The Sea wall has been in place

Speaker 2: 01:21 in 2003 Hurricane Isabelle flooded buildings on campus causing more than $100 million in damage. That was such a big jolt that since then the Naval Academy has taken some of the most aggressive steps of any military installation to protect itself from the rising water. The academy created an advisory Sea level committee and among other things drew up plans to rebuild this seawall higher.

Speaker 3: 01:45 We're going to take into account that water level will most likely rise in the future and build it for about two and a half feet higher than what it's currently constructed with the ability that we'll be able to even add height onto it.

Speaker 2: 01:57 The academy also has designed a new building not only to be high enough to avoid flood damage itself, but also to act as a flood control wall to help protect the campus. Annapolis has about 40 floods a year now, up from fewer than half a dozen, just a few decades

Speaker 3: 02:13 go. We encounter what we call a nuisance flooding quite a bit, where when tides rise, it over floods the road and you just have to deal with it.

Speaker 2: 02:21 Other bases like naval station Norfolk or taking even more elaborate steps. The world's largest naval base has been working closely for years with a host of partners on things like projects to protect key roads in the area and it's been building new structures like barracks and piers higher. But experts agree with the GAO report that the military isn't moving quickly enough. Dod is not adequately prepared for this retired marine brigadier general. Stephen Chaney is chief executive of the American security project, a Washington think tank that's been pressing for a more robust military response to climate change. Chaney knows one the most threatened bases intimately. He wants commanded Parris Island, South Carolina, the iconic Marine Corps training base for new recruits. It's expected to be exposed to significant flooding in the next few decades, and a senior marine commander has said it may need to start building seawalls plus islands and trouble when you've got various sections that are consistently flooded, combined with catastrophic weather.

Speaker 2: 03:21 You can't build a sea wall around that entire base. I mean, you're talking miles here. Cheney says at least Paris island can be moved somewhere safer because it doesn't have to be on the coast. That's not as easy for basis. Like Canplas Yoon, we're marines trained for amphibious landings or deep water ports like Norfolk, your coastlines going to erode, you're going to go under water and you're going to have to find a way to get around it. He says, a big part of the problem is that the Trump administration has been downplaying the threats posed by climate change. Even as three bases are grappling with nearly $10 billion in storm and flood damage in less than a year. It's been difficult to get them to even admit that glomerate changes causing destruction of major bases and interrupting training worldwide. But the Pentagon did agree with the findings and the GAO report. Among other things, I had said that it will begin providing basis with better guidance on which sea level rise projections to use, which in Annapolis, Maryland. This is Jay price reporting. This story was produced by the American homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

Speaker 4: 04:37 [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 After the fireworks, barbecues and beach parties of the fourth. We have some different entertainment events for you to try out over this long holiday weekend. Some contemporary dance at the Bernardo winery and eighties tribute musical rock of ages. Opens at signet and Popstar. Sean Mendez will be in town. KPBS arts editor, Nina Garren is here to tell us all about it. And Nina. Hello. Hello. So let's start with the wine. You're here to tell us about a contemporary dance series at Bernardo winery. Yeah. Every summer Mo Halek dance collective, they put together this thing called summer series at the vine and they bring about a dozen performances to their little theater and it's local companies and student groups. So, uh, the series kicks off this weekend with the California rhythm project. Tell us about them. They are a professional tap dance company and their mission is to preserve the history of tap but also develop the art form. Okay. So the show at the winery is called tap roots. Can you tell us what you want? Expect dancers are going to be performing styles by black tap pioneers like bill Bojangles Robinson. He's known for being elegant and playful. Also James Buster Brown, very smooth. And the Nicholas Brothers who are known to be very daring tappers you actually have a clip from the Nicholas brothers. This is lucky numbers.

Speaker 2: 01:34 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 01:38 what else will people be able to see at summer series at the vine, there's going to be a lot of groups from North County. So next weekend is a group called lethal rock dance. They're very modern and then students from Canyon Crest Academy, which is known to be an arts high school. They're going to be performing kind of what they do throughout the year and they'll have people come back, students come back to perform there. There's also going to be some ballet and there's also going to be a clowning show. Jerry Hagar is going to come and tell you what it's like to be a clown and he's going to do it through the iconic clown red skeleton. So it's a pretty diverse lineup that they have at the Bernardo winery. And again, it is a very small space. So if you are interested, go to the Mohawk [inaudible] website and find your tickets there.

Speaker 1: 02:31 Summer series at the vine begins Saturday with the California Rhythm Project at Bernardo winery. Well, there's going to be a lot of aqua net and spandex excellent. As signet theater this weekend. Tell us what's going on. They are doing rock of ages, which is the jukebox musical that pays tribute to 1980s hair bands. So think Bon Jovi Whitesnake sticks journey. Um, it's a very popular musical. It opened on Broadway in 2009 and it ran for six years and it was even turned into a movie with Tom Cruise. Yeah. It wasn't really the best movie that came out in 2012 but it had a good cast. It also started Catherine Zeta Jones and Brian Cranston. Um, I think seeing it though in a live small theater environment is going to be a much better experience in the film. Well, we do have a clip from the movie though. This is Tom Cruise as arrogant rock star. Stacey Jacks performing. Pour some sugar on me.

Speaker 2: 03:54 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 03:56 so is there even a plot to rock of ages? There's kind of applied and it's about a guy named drew who wants to be very famous on the sunset strip, but he also falls for a girl named Sherry who literally just gets off the bus from Kansas. And I understand signet is having some fun with this show. Yes, there's going to be a bar on the stage so you can get drinks before the show and an intermission right on the stage. And every Friday is eighties night. So if you dress up in costume, you get a free glow bracelet. And if you think maybe the music's too loud for you, they are going to be giving out earplugs. Rock of ages, open Saturday at signature theater and it runs through August 25th finally Popstar Sean Mendez comes to town. Tell us about him. He's a Canadian singer and he was a model and he got famous because he was singing cover songs on the Internet. Um, and over the years he's just become more and more famous. And he opened a few years ago for Taylor Swift's 1989 tour. How would you describe his style? Let's see. He's kind of like a mix of Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber with a couple of Latin rhythms thrown in. It's very, very catchy music. I actually evolved the pop boys. I like Sean Mendez. Okay, well let's listen to one of Sean Mendez early it. This is stitches.

Speaker 2: 05:14 You Watch me beat. It's Eli kv monies and nowadays [inaudible] tripping over myself. Is that enough,

Speaker 1: 05:37 John Mendez for you names? I think I got my fill. Yes. Sean Mendez performance Monday at Pachangas Arena San Diego. You can find more arts events at and I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor, Nina Garren and Nina. Thank you. Thanks. Have a great weekend.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.