By Miriam Raftery
June 14, 2010 (Lakeside) – At a June 10th awards ceremony at Barona Resort , Cleveland National Forest director William Metz praised San Diego’s 88 Fire Safe Councils’ “extraordinary volunteers” for providing a “noble cause” that is critical to the safety of communities in our region. “Your efforts have also made the work of fire responders easier, allowing them to work in defensible space,” said Metz, keynote speaker at the event.
Fire Safe Councils educate the public and organize community efforts to be fire-wise through creation of defensible space, fuel breaks, disaster planning, and vegetation management.
Wende Cornelius with the Alpine and Carveacre Fire Safe Councils has seen first-hand the difference that FSC efforts have made in her area. “We learned that Carveacre was not safe for firefighters to reach us,” she recalled, adding that brush that had grown back since the Cedar Fire “met over cars as we drove home.”
To remedy the problem, she said, “we bought chainsaws, rented a chipper, and our social gatherings were cutting brush all the time….Now every time there is as fire, the firefighters are lined up to protect us.” Fire drills held by the community, including large animal evacuations, also came in handy when the Harris Fire struck, she recalled.
Clay Howe with the Bureau of Land Management noted that most structures within the boundaries of the Cedar and Witch Creek fires did not burn. “There is hope,” he said, emphasizing the importance of creating at least 100 feet of defensible space around your home, removing invasive plant species while retaining sensitivity to wildlife habitat. “Sometimes we don’t need a bulldozer; maybe all we need is a weed whacker,” he noted.
Kathleen Edwards with Cal-Fire praised Fire-Safe Councils for being “relevant” and noted that San Diego County’s population is now 3.3 million people, with more development in the wildland fire region.
Valerie Harrison with the San Miguel Regional Fire Safe Council said she first learned about fire-safe councils after receiving a call from Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office. She praised FSC leaders for their “dedication” in helping her community’s Fire Safe Council obtain a grant.
Recipients of FSC awards also received commendations from the County, State and federal government presented on behalf of Supervisor Dianne Jacob, State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth, Assemblyman Joel Anderson, and Congressman Duncan D. Hunter.
Awards were presented by the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County to the following individuals and organizations:
Volunteer of the Year: Jim Courter, Valley Center FSC
Rookie of the Year : Bob Robeson, Eucalyptus Hills FSC
Project of the Year: Alpine chipping program, Alpine FSC
Fire Safe Council of the Year: Pine Valley FSC
Agency Partner of the Year: U.S. Forest Service
Special awards were also presented to Kathleen Howard and Faith Berry for their leadership roles with the Fire Safe Council and the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County.
Alpine’s Fire Safe Council also received an award for best display at the program (photo, left).
To find a Fire Safe Council (FSC) in your area, obtain information and help making your community safe, visit the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County at www.firesafesdcounty.org. For more information on fire prevention, visit the Resource Conservation District of San Diego at www.rcdsandiego.org.