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FOREST SERVICE BEGINS PRESCRIBED BURNS IN EAST COUNTY

January 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The Palomar Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest will conduct prescribed burning from January 15, 2013 through June 30, 2013 when weather and fuel moisture conditions permit.  This vegetation removal is for the purpose of hazardous fuels reduction, community defense zone maintenance and forest health.  The prescribed burning will take place at various locations on the District including Palomar Mountain, Ramona, San Diego Country Estates, Sunshine Summit and Aguanga.  The projects will cover approximately 700 acres.  Some drifting smoke may be visible during the period of burning.

Residents and other public may call Battalion Chief Tim Gray at 619-902-1414 for more information.

CPUC DENIES SDG&E’S PROPOSAL TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRE LIABILITES

By Miriam Raftery

December 20, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – in a unanimous decision, the California Public Uitlities Commission (CPUC) denied San Diego Gas & Electric  and Southern Califiornia Gas Company’s proposed Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA).  SDG&E had sought to charge ratepayers for its uninsured liability costs for wildfires caused by the utility’s lines, both for future fires and the 2007 firestorms that ravaged San Diego County. Click here for the formal decision.

“This is a huge win for San Diego County residents -- and for common sense,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “SDG&E’s proposal to charge ratepayers for fires the utility largely helped cause would have been a grave injustice to ratepayers and victims of the 2007 firestorms. Sempra Energy and SDG&E continue to make healthy profits and last year dished out hefty bonuses to their top executives,” she added. “The idea that SDG&E cannot afford these costs is nonsense – and I’m glad state regulators appeared to see it the same way.”

FIRE RESTRICTIONS REDUCED ON THE CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST

December 20, 2012 (San Diego) – Effective Tuesday morning at 6:00 am, December 18, 2012, fire restrictions on the Cleveland National Forest were reduced to the “General Level.” The recent rain and cooler temperatures have lessened likelihood that small fires will become larger fires.



“While the height of our fire season may be coming to an end, we urge that people stay vigilant to prevent wildfires,” said Carlton Joseph, Fire Chief for the Cleveland National Forest.  “Our fire season in southern California is year round, and we remain ready to respond to these emergency situations.”

CPUC ACCUSED OF VIOLATING BROWN ACT AND DUE PROCESS: FAILED TO NOTIFY PARTIES OF NEW PROPOSAL FOR MEETING TOMRROW ON SDG&E PLAN TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRE COSTS

By Miriam Raftery

December 19, 2012 (San Diego) – Why did the California Public Utilities Commission fail to notify parties that it plans to hear a drastically revised alternate decision at tomorrow’s meeting on SDG&E’s proposed Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA)? 

The new version, written by Commissioner Timothy Simon,  would allow SDG&E to charge ratepayers not only for certain uninsured costs of future wildfires caused by its lines, but also appears to now include the 2007 wildfires as well—a shift that has outraged fire survivors. (See pages 23 and 28 at link above.) The draft contains numerous other changes from an earlier alternate decision penned by Simon, as well as a separate alternate decision penned previously by Commissioner Maribeth Bushey, as ECM reported earlier.    

Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, representing fire victim Ruth Henricks,  sent an e-mail tonight to the CPUC objecting to any discussion or consideration of the new alternative decision on grounds that it violates the Brown Act due to failure to give proper notice, as well as collective concurrence outside a properly noticed meeting.  He also alleges violation of due process.

STATE REDUCES FIRE FEE ON RURAL EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS



December 13, 2012 (San Diego's East County--The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) , after working with the San Diego County Fire Authority along with several other agencies, today announced that residents within County Service Area (CSA) 135 are eligible for the $35.00 reduction on the State’s Fire Prevention Fee.

“CSA 135 includes all unincorporated areas of East County including the backcountry,” Captain Mike Mohler, public information officer at Cal Fire, told East County Magazine.  The new Fee, which is being assessed on all habitable structures within the State Responsibility Area, is set at $150, but has a $35 reduction when the home is within a local fire protection agency.

SUPERVISOR JACOB ASKS CPUC TO OPPOSE SDG&E’S WILDFIRE COST-RECOVERY "SCHEME"

December 6, 2012 (San Diego's East County)--County Supervisor Dianne Jacob is again asking the California Public Utilities Commission to reject an attempt by San Diego Gas & Electric to bill its customers for the uninsured cost of the region’s 2007 wildfires and any future wildfire caused by the utility.

“I remain outraged at SDG&E’s incessant attempt to slap ratepayers with a massive invoice for the 2007 wildfires that scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in rural San Diego County,” Jacob wrote today in a letter to CPUC President Michael Peevey. “The notion that SDG&E cannot afford the costs of these fires is nonsense.”

JUDGE DENIES TRIAL DATE FOR 2007 WILDFIRE VICTIMS

By Nadin Abbott

November 29, 2012 (San Diego)--Today lawyers representing residents burned out by the 2007 Witch Creek, Rice and Guejito wildfires and attorneys for defendant San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) came before Superior Court Judge Richard E. L. Strauss in San Diego Superior Court to plead for victims who don't wish to settle to be given a trial date.

This is one of the most complex tort cases in recent San Diego history.  It stemmed from the Witch Creek fire, which burned 197,990 acres and  destroyed 1,124 homes. Although the California Public Utilities Commission has found that SDG&E lines caused these fires, many wildfire victims have yet to receive a penny in compensation five years after their homes and lives were destroyed. Some remain in trailers or other temporary housing five years after the fires.

KIWANIS JOINS EFFORT TO HELP SHOCKEY FIRE FAMILY

Donations needed to repair trailer for winter

November 26, 2012 (Jacumba) – Kiwanis Clubs in Campo and Crest have joined forces to assist a family with a two-year-old child.  The family, who lost their home in the Shockey Fire, has been living in a temporary arrangement but was able to purchase a fifth-wheel trailer thanks to community donations.

More funds are needed, however, since the trailer needs “much repairs and appliances” before the family can call it home this winter in an area tha receives snow, says Lorrie Ostrander of Jacumba, who has been coordinating relief efforts for the fire victims. 

BRUSH FIRE ON INTERSTATE 8

November 25, 2012 (El Cajon ) - A brush fire is burning along Interstate 8 west at East Main Street in El Cajon. The fire is burning uphill in medium fuel.   CHP shut down the freeway briefly but one lane is now reopened.

Further east, a car fire on I-8 east near Jacumba is also impacting traffic.

Sign up for free Viejas Wildfire & Emergency Alerts at the top right side of our homepage and you can also receive a free weekly copy of East County Magazine.  You can also follow ViejasAlerts on Twitter. We recommend all of the above since you don't know which communication will work best in a regional emergency.

RAMONA GROUP SEEKS TO HAVE CPUC MOVE MEETING ON SDG&E WILDFIRE REIMBURSEMENT TO SAN DIEGO

The California Public Utilities Commission has announced that its November 29 meeting agenda in San Francisco will include SDG&E’s proposed Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA), the utility’s proposal to charge ratepayers for uninsured costs of wildfires. 

But the Mussey Grade Road Alliance, a Ramona citizens group, has filed a request asking the commission to move the meeting to San Diego.

CONTROLLED BURN WEDNESDAY IN MCCAIN VALLEY

November 20, 2012 (Jacumba)--Cal-Fire will conduct a burn tomorrow, November 21 in McCain Valley near the community of Jacumba. The burn will be approximately 35 acres and smoke will be visible off Interstate 8 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

CAL FIRE WILL BE CONDUCTING A PRESCRIBED BURN IN THE RANCHO JAMUL AREA

November 19, 2012 (Jamul) -- –Cal Fire resources will be conducting a small prescribed burn in the  Rancho Jamul area  near the community of Jamul. This burn is scheduled to take place tomorrow, November 20, between 8 a.m. and lasting until 4:00 p.m. 

Cal Fire plans to burn approximately 80 acres. Smoke will be visible along highway 94 and other East County areas.

CAL FIRE TO HOLD CONTROLLED BURN WEDNESDAY IN CUYAMACA AREA

November 14, 2012 (Cuyamaca)  -- Due to a change in weather, this week’s controlled burn planned for McCain Valley was cancelled. Instead, Cal-Fire will hold a prescribed burn on Wednesday, November 15 in the Middle Peak area off Highway 79 and Mild Ranch Road in the Cuyamaca area.  Smoke will be visible from the Julian and surrounding areas, Mike Mohler at Cal-Fire advises.

ECM READERS COME THROUGH TO HELP SHOCKEY FIRE VICTIMS

Cooking items, sheets still needed

November 10, 2012 (Jacumba/Boulevard) – Lorrie Ostrander, who has been coordinating efforts to help families who lost homes in the Shockey Fire, has sent the following letter thanking ECM readers for your generosity.  While many needs have been met, some remain. Please read her letter below, and help if you can.

CAL FIRE TO HOLD CONTROLLED BURN TUESDAY IN RANCHO JAMUL AREA

November 6, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire Authority in cooperation with State Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service resources will conduct a prescribed burn in the area of the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve in East county near the community of Jamul. This burn is scheduled to take place during daylight hours on November 6.

LESSONS FROM THE STORM

By Nadin Abbott

November 3, 2012 (San Diego) -- The East Coast has been battered by Hurricane Sandy, which caused dramatic damage. Many of us in sunny San Diego may believe our only major risks are earthquakes and wildfires. But our region is not immune to hurricanes. The first recorded major hurricane to hit San Diego County was 1858. Then in 1976, Hurricane Kathleen reduced I-8 to rubble, washed out a railway and destroyed a bridge in San Diego’s East County, causing major flooding as far east as Ocotillo in Imperial County. View photos of Hurricane Kathleen's damage from a book written by a CalTrans engineer.

Wikipedia lists several tropical storms and hurricanes that damaged Southern California and Arizona. Moreover, with climate change,storm tracks are slowly moving north from Mexico, so we are at increased risk. Regardless, you should be ready for a disaster. Government authorities have warned for years that people need to be ready to be on their own for 72 hours. This is a general civil defense recommendation not limited to the United States.

 

 

RED FLAG WARNING: FIRE WEATHER WATCH

November 3, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for high fire risk in San Diego's mountains and a less severe fire watch in inland valley areas. The alerts start at 7 p.m. Sunday night through 4 p.m. Monday.  The red flag warning is issued due to low humidity and gusty winds forecast up to 30 mph. 

Temperatures should begin cooling later in the week, with partially cloudy weather and a chance of rain Thursday through Saturday.

STATE FIRE TAX NOTICES NOW HITTING LOCAL MAILBOXES

November 3, 2012 (Sacramento) – State officials have started mailing notices to tens of thousands of San Diego County property owners warning that they will soon be billed $150 annually to help shore up Cal Fire’s budget. Budget cuts have dropped the number of firefighters per engine, among other cutbacks in wildfire protection.

Residents of Alpine, Dehesa and other communities in Jacob’s Second District report receiving the notices in recent days. They consider the new fire tax an unfair burden, noting they already pay state property taxes to help fund public safety and often community fees for additional fire protection.

“WISH LIST” FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILES WHO LOST HOMES IN THE SHOCKEY FIRE

November 2, 2012 (Boulevard) – Thanks to our generous readers who helped raise several thousand dollars plus supplies to benefit 11 families who lost homes in the recent Shockey fire.

“So many wonderful people are out there with wonderful caring hearts,” Lorrie Ostrander, who organized a fundraising event for fire survivors told ECM.  Some fire surivors are now placed in old trailers donated and others are on the Campo reservation. "A home is what we make of it and for now they are thankful for life,” said Ostrander, adding that items needed most now are cooking utensils, curtains, towels, bedding, dishes and toys. 

She also offered this “wish list” for the kids for Chirstmas:  a girl's bike for a 10 year old, sports items for a boy, 9, who lost his baseball bat, ball, football and basketball, and a motorized toy truck for a 2-year-old whose treasured truck was lost to the flames.

BRUSH FIRE IN EL CAJON: STRUCTURES THREATENED

Update:  ECM news partner 10 News reports that this fire was started by El Cajon Police SWAT team conducting training exercises at a shooting range near Gillespie Field. 

Homes on Hacienda were threatened but did not burn, however one firefighter was transported to Grossmont Hospital in stable condition with a knee injury. 

Lt. M. Coit with El Cajon Police offered this statement.  "The smoke canister was deployed as part of an El Cajon Police Department SWAT Team training exercise.  The SWAT Team followed all safety precautions, however underestimated the weather conditions. The El Cajon SWAT Team is currently re-evaluating the safety procedures for the deploying of such devises.  The Heartland Fire Department will provide additional training to ensure that similar events do not occur. The El Cajon Police Department regrets any inconvenience to residents in the area."

BRUSH FIRE DOUSED NEAR SCHOOLS IN RANCHO SAN DIEGO

By Paul Kruze

View a video of the fire

October 26, 2012 (Rancho San Diego)--A brush fire brought out the full firefighting strength of several fire districts on Friday afternoon. The blaze broke out at 3:15 p.m. on a mountain near Avenida Anacapa and Avenida Antiqua in Rancho San Diego. 

According to Leonard Villareal, public information officer for the San Miguel Fire District, the fire was confined to a 2.5 mile area and by 4:30 p.m., the firefighting operation was reduced to mop up situation. Although the location of the fire was near Rancho San Diego Elementary School and Hillsdale Middle School, students were let out of class on a normal schedule. 

FROM THE CHIEF'S CORNER: HIGH WIND SAFETY TIPS

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

October 25, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--Wildfires are a major concern for us beginning today and into the weekend says Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna. Warm temperatures, with wind gusts anticipated to reach up to 60 mph in wind prone areas with relative humidity expected to be in the single digit area with little over-night recovery.

This warning applies to most all of the Southern California area. If a wildfire fire does develop under these conditions anticipate a rapid rate of spread due to low fuel moisture content!

RED FLAG WARNING ISSUED FOR "EXPLOSIVE" WILDFIRE POTENTIAL

October 24, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning, which means that critical fire weather conditions are occurring now or will shortly.A combination of strong Santa Ana winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will create explosive wildland fire growth potential.

Highest winds of up to 65 mph are forecast for late Thursday evening through early Saturday afternoon, with strong and gusty northeast to east winds.  Dry conditions will continue through the weekend, though with weakening winds.

CPUC ISSUES CONFLICTING DRAFT DECISIONS ON WHETHER SDG&E MAY CHARGE CA RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRES CAUSED BY ITS POWER LINES

By Miriam Raftery

October 20, 2012 (San Diego)—Should SDG&E be allowed to charge ratepayers for the 2007 wildfires that it caused – as well as damage from any future fires?  The utility has sought to set up a ““Wildfire Expense Balancing  Account” (WEBA) that would allow it to recover its uninsured losses—regardless of whether the utility was negligent in failing to maintain its lines and equipment. 

This week, two conflicting draft decisions from California Public Utilities representatives are fueling further controversy.

JOHN REVELS WANTS VOTERS IN SAN MIGUEL FIRE DISTRICT TO HAVE A CHOICE ON RESTORING INDEPENDENCE FROM CAL-FIRE

By Janis Mork

October 16, 2012 (Spring Valley)- Civil engineer John Revels is running for the San Miguel Fire Board. In an exclusive interview with East County Magazine, he shared his views on his candidacy and the future of the fire district.

Revels was motivated to run because, “I got a flyer of what was going on at San Miguel fire board. I have nothing against Cal Fire; they are a great organization. I wanted to keep San Miguel independent as it’s always been [before the merger with Cal Fire]. So a year ago, I started attending meetings and talking to people, and I also went to meetings to speak to the board at Cuyamaca College.”

VIEJAS AND HEARTLAND FIRE TRAINING AUTHORITY FORGE JOINT POWERS AGREEMENT

JPA is first in California involving a Native American tribe

By Miriam Raftery

October 18, 2012 (El Cajon ) – The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and Heartland Fire Training Authority this week announced that they have entered into a historic Joint Powers Agreement (JPA). 

“This JPA finally allows Viejas to have a seat at the table and have a full and meaningful partnership with other fire agencies that we’ve worked with for years in a very productive way,” said Viejas Fire Chief Don Butz. “Ultimately, this benefits the entire region, since wildfires and other natural disasters do not recognize geographic, political or other borders. We are all stronger and better protected when we work and train together.”

PALA FIRE DEPARTMENT TO HOST 7TH ANNUAL FIRE PREVENTION FAIR OCTOBER 20

October 18, 2012 (Pala) -- The Pala Fire Department along with the Pala Band of Mission Indians will hold its 7th Annual Fire Prevention Fair on October 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pala Fire Station on Hwy 76 in Pala. This event is free and open to the public.

HELP NEEDED FOR SHOCKEY FIRE VICTIMS AS WINTER APPROACHES

Fundraiser a success, but more help is needed:  “wish list” provided for families who lost homes

By Miriam Raftery

October 17, 2012 (Jacumba/Boulevard)—Ray Ritter, 2, and his parents are among nine families who lost everything in the Shockey Fire last month.  The home they were renting burned to the ground and they had no insurance.  But that’s just the latest in a string of tragedies for the Ritters.

“Dad died September 14,” Monica Ritter told ECM.  “His memorial service was Sept. 20 and on the 21st, our house burned down.”

ECM met the Ritter family at a fundraiser for Shockey Fire victims held last Friday at the Jacumba community center, where firefighters and community members turned out to raise $1,378.59.  The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation had already given over $3500 to the families during recovery after the fire—but now fire victims need additional help to rebuild their lives as the cold season draws near.

FIRE WEATHER WARNING

October 18, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – The National Weather service has issued a hazardous weather statement for our region. Elevated fire weather conditions are forecast for the next week due to hot, dry conditions in the mountains and gusty northeast to east winds in deserts and foothills. The most severe conditions are expected Thursday.

Yesterday, record high temperatures were set in El Cajon (102), Ramona (98) and Escondido (100).

RAMONA CERT SEEKS MATCHING FUNDS TO COMPLETE EMERGENCY TRAILER TO BE BASED IN SAN DIEGO COUNTRY ESTATES

October 17, 2012 (Ramona) -- Ramona CERT was among eight beneficiaries named in the inaugural 2012 awards made by the newly formed affiliate of The San Diego Foundation, The Ramona Community Foundation. The team was presented with a check for $4,000 during a reception at the Ramona Community Library on Saturday, October 6.

Pictured from L-R: Shelley Stefanyszyn, Don Scott, John Degenfelder, Chair-The Ramona Community Foundation, Wes Brustad*, Board Mbr-The Ramona Community Foundation, Cal-Fire Battalion Chief Burke Kremensky, Barry Davis*, and Philip Savage. Photo Credit: Maureen Robertson *San Diego Country Estates’ residents

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