Wildfire News

HOT TOPIC: VIEJAS HOSTS WILDFIRE FIGHTING DRILLS FOR 60 FIRE PROTECTION AGENCIES

By Miriam Raftery

April 23, 2009 (Viejas Indian Reservation)—Preparing for fire season, fire
engine crews from more than 60 fire protection agencies donned full safety
gear and participated in structure protection drills, wildland hose lays, pumping
evolutions and other exercises. Aerial resources, including helicopters, practiced
coordinated fire attacks with ground crews under simulated fire conditions.
The eighth annual event was hosted this year at the Viejas Indian Reservation
east of Alpine on April 18, 21, 22 and 23.

BOULEVARD FIRE NOW EXTINGUISHED; FIRE VICTIM DECLINED AIR TRANSPORT; HELICOPTER DISPATCHED TO CRASH AT IN-KO-PAH

UPDATE 7:20 p.m. A fire that began in Boulevard earlier this evening has been extinguished, Cal-Fire confirms. Fire crews will remain on the scene for several hours dousing hot spots. The blaze caused $400,000 in damage. A fire victim refused air transport and has been transported to the burn unit at UCSD via ground transport. The helicopter was dispatched to aid victims of a rollover crash on I-8 at In-Ko-Pah. April 21, 2009 (5:50 p.m.) – A house fire in Boulevard that started at 5:35 p.m. has spread to surrounding vegetation and engulfed 1/8 of an acre.

COURTS LIKELY TO OVERTURN SUNRISE POWERLINK APPROVAL, CONSUMER ATTORNEY PREDICTS TO CROWD OF 600 PROTESTORS IN ALPINE

By Miriam Raftery

Sign expresses residents' outrage over fire dangers posed by Powerlink

April 8, 2009 (Alpine)—A coalition of more than 600 people packed the community center in Alpine last night to protest Sunrise Powerlink, the high-voltage line that SDG&E plans to build through the heart of this mountain community. Attorney Michael Shames from the Utility Consumers Action Network told the crowd that despite approval by the California Public Utilities Commission in December, he believes that construction of Powerlink will ultimately be halted through legal action.

 

WHERE'S THE PORK? NO MONEY FOR FIRE STATIONS OR FIRE PREVENTION IN SAN DIEGO'S PROPOSED STIMULUS PROJECTS

 

 

"The City and County never asked the fire departments. We are very disappointed," -- August Ghio, President, San Diego Fire Chiefs Association

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

March 5, 2009 (San Diego)--Why didn't a city and county that have suffered through the worst wildfires in California history request funds through the federal stimulus program for any fire protection projects?

EL CAJON FIRE DEPARTMENT RECEIVES FUNDING TO ENHANCE TRAINING

EL CAJON, Calif. (March 6, 2009)--CMR Risk & Insurance Services and Fireman's Fund Insurance Company are teaming up to award a $6,000 grant to the El Cajon Fire Department to help fund the city's firefighter training academy. The money will go toward instructor fees, purchasing materials, and buying necessary supplies. Each program at the academy teaches a specific function of firefighting, including Hazardous Materials First Responder, Low Angle Rescue, Confined Space Awareness, Fire Control 3, Auto Extrication, and Incident Command System.

NO SPAIN, NO BULL--ITS THE "RUNNING OF THE GOATS" IN CREST SATURDAY, MARCH 7

March 3, 2009 (Crest)--It may be un-"herd" of, but it is happening in Crest and it's not a baaad idea. The first ever "Running of the Goats" will take place on March 7, 2009 at the South Lane Park in Crest. This "running" will not reflect the danger as experienced in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, but it will greatly reduce the dangers of wild fires in the East County. (View video of a goats-run-wild event in another community here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDJP8yMbLjQ.)

 

WILDFIRE AT SAN DIEGO/TEMECULA COUNTY LINE NOW 50% CONTAINED

UPDATE MARCH 3, 7 a.m.: Fire officials have reduced the acreage estimate to 77. The fire is now 80% contained with full containment expected by 6 p.m. this evening. March 2, 2009 (Temecula)--A fire urning in the Deluz area of Temecula north of Fallbrook in Riverside County, just one mile from the San Diego County line, has engulfed 100 acres.

 

ECM SPECIAL REPORT: INVESTIGATOR-TURNED-WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIMS FAULTY POWER LINE INSTALLATIONS CAUSED 2003 CEDAR AND PARADISE FIRES AS WELL AS WILDFIRES IN 2007; SDG&E DISPUTES CLAIM

By Miriam Raftery

Clark testified at CPUC hearing that he believes a design flaw in SDG&E lines is responsible for several major fires, including the Witch, Paradise and Cedar fires.

February 24, 2009 (San Diego’s East County) — For $50,000, the cost of a single fire engine, SDG&E could fix an allegedly dangerous problem on power lines in San Diego County, according to electrical engineer and insurance investigator Ed Clark. Clark believes faulty installations caused the 2003 Witch and Paradise fires as well as devastating blazes in 2007. SDG&E disputes Clark’s claim and insists its lines are safe.

“This is the biggest corporate cover-up anyone has ever seen,” Clark told East County Magazine in an exclusive interview.

TWO ELECTRICAL EXPERTS CONFIRM CLARK’S CONTENTION THAT SDG&E INSTALLATIONS ARE DANGEROUS, CAN IGNITE FIRES; SDG&E INSISTS ITS LINES ARE SAFE

By Miriam Raftery

Power Lines
Clark contends that the installation shown here, with
two down guy wires connected by a single bolt, is dangerous. SDG&E
denies that contention.

February 24, 2009 (San Diego’s East County) — Ed Clark,
an electrical protection engineer-turned-whistleblower, contends that inappropriate
power line installations by SDG&E/Sempra Energy have caused multiple wildfires
in San Diego County – and that the utility’s refusal to replace or correct
the installations leaves our region at risk for more fires.

SDG&E disputes Clark’s claims and insists that its installations are legal
and safe. (See our story: Investigator claims fault utility line installations
caused 2003 Cedar and Paradise Fires as well as fires in 2007; SDG&E disputes
claim
). Now
East County Magazine has spoken with two additional electrical engineering
experts—and both confirm Clark’s contention that such installations are dangerous.

HARBISON CANYON FIRE STATION REOPENS

February 10, 2009 (Harbison Canyon) — Like a phoenix arisen from
the ashes, a new fire station has opened to replace the Harbison Canyon station
that burned down during the 2003 Cedar Fire.

CAL FIRE-Rural Protection District held a grand opening to celebrate completion
of the new station,
which was funded by insurance, the Sycuan tribe, and Supervisor Dianne Jacob's
office.

SDG&E THREATENS TO SUE WILDFIRE VICTIMS

By Miriam Raftery

February 2, 2009 (San Diego's East County)--San Diego Gas & Electric Company has notified attorneys representing fire victims that the utility company plans to sue victims of the 2007 wildfires. The announcement has sparked an angry response from some elected officials and residents in burned-out areas of East County.

MARCH 17 HEARING SET IN SAN DIEGO ON SDG&E PLAN TO SHUT OFF POWER ON DRY, WINDY DAYS

By Miriam Raftery

January 23, 2009 (San Diego) -- An administrative law judge has issued orders requiring the California Public Utilities commission to hold three public hearings on SDG&E's proposed shut-off of power to back country communities during high-wind events with low humidity.

COUNTY ANNOUNCES PLAN TO KEEP FIRE STATIONS OPEN

State Budget Cuts Threaten Fire Stations; County Offers to Shift
Staff to Protect Region

December 23, 2008 (San Diego) —Acting
swiftly to counteract California's latest budget crisis, the County of San
Diego has proposed to temporarily shift some firefighters from County-contracted
stations to ensure that all 18 CAL FIRE stations remain open this year, according
to a press release issued jointly by San Diego County and CAL FIRE.

STATE CUTS FIRE STAFFING DUE TO BUDGET CRISIS

Only 5 of 20 engines will be staffed this winter

By Miriam Raftery

December 11, 2008 (San Diego) — CAL FIRE will reduce
staffing to winter preparedness levels in Southern Califiornia to address a
one-time $6.3 million  budget
crisis.
"This means additional seasonal employees will be laid off for a total of 17
weeks from mid-December to mid April, 2009 which is the lowest risk wildfire
period according to historical data," Captain Nick Schuler, public information
officer for CAL FIRE's San Diego unit, stated in a media advisory issued this
morning. 

In 2004, 20 additional fire engines were added in Southern California to implement
year round staffing. This plan allows for staffing  only five of those
additional engines for the December to April period.

EDITORIAL - A PROPOSAL FOR PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA

Put Americans to work providing fire protection infrastructure and
energy independence for San Diego's fire-ravaged East County region

By Miriam Raftery, Editor, East County Magazine

December
7, 2008 (San Diego's East County) —
President-Elect Barack
Obama is expected to propose the largest infrastructure-rebuilding program
since Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated the Works Progress Administration
(WPA) during the Great Depression.  The goal is to put Americans back
to work and revitalize the economy while also repairing roads, bridges, levees
and other public projects.

While fiscal conservatives may oppose massive spending on public works projects,
the reality is that with a Democratic-controlled Congress, the President's
proposed infusion of capital into infrastructure rebuilding is guaranteed to
pass. "So why not have San Diego County's bipartisan Congressional delegation
propose that a portion of those infrastructure dollars be spent to improve
fire safety right here in East County, where the worst wildfires in California
history struck in 2003 and again in 2007?"

FIRE RELIEF FUNDRAISER SET FOR SAT. NOV 8

"Do you think the victims of the fires of 2003 & 2007 be allowed
to go
homeless?" asks Randy Seol of the musical group Strawberry Alarm Clock.

This Saturday, November 8 from 3 to 8 p.m., Seol is organizing a benefit
fundraiser to meet and hear musical groups slated to perform at a benefit
concert next March.(The concert was originally set for October 4th but was
postponed due to permit issues.)

SDG&E PLAN TO CUT POWER GETS FROSTY RECEPTION AT PUC HEARING; BACK COUNTRY RESIDENTS, PUBLIC OFFICIALS VOICE OBJECTIONS

By Miriam Raftery

November  2008
(San Diego) — Public officials and backcountry residents leveled
harsh criticism at SG&E during a public meeting of the California Public
Utilities Commission (CPUC) convened in San Diego on October 14 to discuss
causes of the 2007 wildfires and how to prevent future conflagrations.  Speaker
after speaker blasted SDG&E’s proposal to cut power to 45,000 homes
during high fire risk conditions and urged commissioners to take action to
prevent future fires.  (Citizens with information for the CPUC may send
an e-mail to sd2007fires@cpuc.ca.gov.)

FIRE OFFICIALS SAY SHOCKEY FIRE CAUSE CAN'T BE DETERMINED; PRAISE CAMPO RESIDENTS FOR SAVING HOMES

By Miriam Raftery

Cal Fire Captain Richard Stephan

October 27, 2008 (Campo) - The cause of the Shockey Fire,
which burned approximately 400 acres on October 15, will likely never be conclusively
determined, California Fire and Forestry  (Cal Fire) officials informed East County Magazine’s
editor during a recent visit at Campo’s fire station.

THE RENO REPORT: MORNING HAS BROKEN

By Jamie Reno
Exclusive for East County Magazine

Jamie RenoOctober 15, 2008 (Tierrasanta) - Morning has broken. As the sun rises over the East County, a sense of calm permeates my body. Yesterday morning, when I started writing this column for East County Magazine on the new fire threats, it was a different story. I was filled with anxiety. The theme of the piece I was about to write had pretty much been decided for me: Oh, no, here we go again!

HIGHWAYS OPEN, FIRES 100% CONTAINED IN CAMPO AND RANCHO BERNARDO; FIREFIGHTERS STILL BATTLE JULIET BLAZE

October 14, 2008, 11:00 p.m. -- All major highways in San Diego County are open tonight.
The Juliet Fire, which burned 3,980 acres in the Oceanside area after spreading from Camp Pendleton, is now 60% contained and evacuation orders in Fallbrook have been lifted. The Shockey Fire in Campo is 100% contained after burning 200 acres. A small fire in Rancho Bernardo has also been extinguished. A red flag alert for high fire danger remains in effect through 10 p.m. Wednesday night.

NEW FIRES BREAK OUT IN RANCHO BERNARDO AND OCEANSIDE, I-5 CLOSED

October 14 (12:30 p.m.) - Santa Ana winds are fueling new fires in several
portions of San Diego County, forcing closure of several major highways and
evacuations in the Rancho Bernardo, Oceanside, Fallbrook and Campo areas last
night and today.

Police have ordered evacuation of homes on the west side of a fire on a hillside
at Camino del Norte and Camino San Bernardo in the 4S Ranch area near Rancho
Bernardo. Two helicopters are dropping water on the flames; fire engines and
ground crews are also dousing hot spots. Details and video: www.cbs8.com/stories/story.143243.html.

FIRE NEAR CAMPO 50% CONTAINED, HWYS 94 AND 8 CLOSED, 400 EVACUATED

October 13 (Campo) 9:30 a.m. -- Three hundred homes have been ordered to evacuate due to a 100-acre wildfire that began at Highway 94 near Shockey Truck Trail. The blaze has burned 100 areas on both sides of 94 and is 50% contained. No structures have been lost. Evacuation centers have been established at at the Potrero Library and Mountain Empire High School.

4,000 FLEE FIRES IN PENDLETON, OCEANSIDE, FALLBROOK

Fire in North County. Photo by Corina Squires

October 14 (Camp Pendleton) 12:10 p.m. - The third blaze in there weeks to
strike Camp Pendleton has charred over 1,500 acres, forcing evacution of over
4,000 people from Oceanside as well as base housing. Some schools in Oceanside
may be closed tomorrow, ECM has learned.

The Juliet fire forced evacuation of Serra Mesa Housing and San Luis Rey Housing
on the base, authorities at Camp Pendleton told ECM. As flames spread to the
northeast tonight, a second fire broke out near Fallbrook. The City of Oceanside
has announced that mandatory evacuations are now in effect for the East end
of Sleeping Indian to include Wilshire, Indian Trail, Hidden Valley and Camino
Baja Cerro.

SDG&E THREAT TO CUT POWER DURING FIRE DANGER SPARKS HEATED OUTCRY AMONG EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS

Large crowd likely at CPUC meeting Tuesday in San Diego

By Miriam Raftery

October 13, 2008 (San Diego’s East County) - Backcountry residents
are reacting with shock,  praise and outrage to a notice sent by San Diego
Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to 45,000 customers warning that power lines
may be shut off when fire danger is high.  With red flag warnings issued
by the National Weather Service through Tuesday night, thousands of East County
and North County residents may find themselves without power Monday or Tuesday.

“Many of my neighbors are up in arms. The guy next to me has about 280
acres, and he’s about ready to storm Washington,” said Bill Root,
an Alpine resident who relies on power from SDG&E to pump well water that
sustains his horses and other livestock as well as his family. 

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