By Tracy Emblem
September 10, 2009 (San Diego)--Fires have a catastrophic effect on the lives of Californians. When the new state budget was recently passed and signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, $27 million was cut from the budget with the stroke of a pen along with funding for the DC-10 fire retardant bomber that helped fight fires. If you don't think we need critical emergency fire services in San Diego County, or cannot afford it, think again.
Who among us does not recall the devastating 2007 wildfires where walls of wind-whipped flames burned communities all around us? Businesses were disrupted, causing significant loss of revenues and productivity. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes. During that fire season, over 375 homes in San Diego County were destroyed.
With the back country burning in Los Angeles, we need to be on heightened alert in San Diego County where intricate network of canyons through our urban areas voraciously fuel deadly fires. September and October is when the Santa Ana winds pose the greatest danger for the quickly spreading firestorms.
This year our natural vegetation, because of longstanding drought, has created kindling waiting for the requisite spark. On top of the dangerously dry brush, we have a water shortage, putting even more homes and properties at risk.
While several of our own San Diego County firefighters are in Los Angeles helping to combat that fire, the Legislature is meeting to consider whether to adopt AB 196, an emergency response initiative which needs a two-thirds vote in the Legislature. This bill creates an emergency response fund by requiring a 4.8 percent surcharge on commercial, residential and multi-peril insurance policies. This measure is critical for our region's protection. We cannot afford to abandon vital public services that provide us with mutual fire protection safety.
No new taxes seems to be the battle cry of many of California voters, but if the devastation of the fire season hits our communities as it could very well do this year, we will remember: you get what you pay for.
We cannot afford to take a "do nothing" bare bones approach to fire protection in California. For us, failure to have adequate fire protection is like the levee failure in New Orleans - predictable - a disaster waiting to happen.
Tracy Emblem is an attorney and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in California's 50th District. The opinions expressed here reflect those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.