Wildfire News

FANITA RANCH GENERATES WORRIES ABOUT WILDFIRES

By Mike Allen
 
Photo: Theresa McCarthy, speaking against Fanita Ranch
 
February 15, 2020 (Santee) -- In a third public workshop Feb. 12 about Fanita Ranch, the 3,000 unit residential project proposed in northwestern Santee, developer HomeFed Corp. presented an extensive fire prevention plan--including construction of a new fire station and three roadway extensions from the site to main city thoroughfares in case of an emergency evacuation.
 
While the plans looked nice to some, others remained skeptical that the addition of all those houses will make the city safer during a wildfire.
 

COUNTY LAUNCHES EVACUATION PLAN FOCUSED ON VULNERABLE PEOPLE

If you needed to evacuate for an emergency, could you just get in your car and go? For some, the answer may be no because they lack transportation, need additional help with medical equipment or gathering items in their home.

Studies have shown that during a disaster, older adults or people with disabilities, or access and functional needs have added challenges when faced with evacuation. This information inspired the County Office of Emergency Services to come up with the Neighborhood Evacuation Team program in partnership with the Community Emergency Response Teams throughout the region. The teams are made up of disaster-trained volunteers who can help in their neighborhoods.

People who reach out for assistance will be teamed up with a CERT member who can guide them through the process of making a plan that suits their needs, including working out transportation needs with a caregiver, neighbor or family member.

THREE FIREFIGHTERS KILLED IN PLANE CRASH BATTLING AUSTRALIA WILDFIRES: C-130 CONDUCTED CAL-FIRE TRAINING, FOUGHT CALIFORNIA FIRESTORMS

Victims were firefighters from Wyoming, Arizona and Florida

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of Gov. Gavin Newsom's office:  C-130 that crashed in Australia today is same one shown in photo at McClellan Air Base during an event last August attended by Newsom.

January 23, 2020 (Ramona) – A plane used to fight California wildfires last year and to train Cal-Fire pilots has crashed while fighting brush fires in Australia, killing three U.S. firefighters. A C-130 was in Ramona last August to train future pilots.

The C-130 Hercules aircraft built by Lockheed Martin and repurposed to fight fires was operated by Coulson Aviation of Canada, which has grounded its fleet to re-assess safety conditions and honor the victims.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends and colleagues of the crew from Tanker 134 that wre lost during a tragic crash while battling the devastating Australia fires.  Cal Fire stands with you during this difficult time,” Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said.

Governor Gavin Newsom voiced condolences to families of the crew and Cal Fire for the loss of “three heroic American firefighters”  He adds, “This tragic accident reminds us all of the too-high cost of the scourge of wildfires, as well as the sacrifice of first responders from around the world. California and Australia, already united by the deadly threat of wildfires, now grieve this tragic loss together.”

READER’S EDITORIAL: MEASURE A WILL REDUCE FIRE RISK IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY

By Nona T. Barker and Richard W. Halsey

Photo: 2007 firestorms in San Diego County, courtesy of La Mesa Fire Dept.

January 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- As we watch Australia burn, many Californians remember the fear they felt as fires raged near their homes in recent years. Fires are a fact of life in much of California, but there are steps we can take to reduce the damage to people, property and our regional economy. One important commonsense step is to avoid building new houses in areas at the highest risk of burning.

Unfortunately, the urge to maximize profits seems to outweigh common sense for many big developers. Time and again, developers have requested amendments to the county’s General Plan to build massive sprawl housing projects in fire-prone areas of San Diego County. Our General Plan is a guide to sustainable growth in San Diego County. Despite the 13 years, millions of dollars, and widespread public input and support that went into developing the plan, our Board of Supervisors has shown time and again that it is inclined to support sprawl developments in our backcountry.

Measure A would put a stop to this short-sighted behavior. Under Measure A, voters get a direct voice in deciding whether large proposed housing developments that would increase zoned residential density in fire-prone rural and semi-rural areas can be built.

GET "FIRED UP" THE SAFE WAY!

CHIEF'S CORNER : FIREPLACE SAFETY

 

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

 

January 20, 2020 (San Diego) -- It’s been pretty chilly lately and nothing beats a nice fire in the fireplace during winter months. Though fires may keep us warm, there are hazards that need to be addressed.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) encourages you to practice the following fire safety steps to keep those home fires safely burning says DiGiovanna. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility as fire prevention starts with you!

Here are some fireplace safety tips to help keep you safe:

SUPERVISORS APPROVE BUILDING CODE CHANGES TO MAKE NEW HOMES IN FIRE-PRONE AREAS MORE RESISTANT TO WILDFIRES

By Miriam Raftery

 

January 16, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego Supervisors today gave preliminary approval to change the county’s building code in order to require fire-resistant construction of all new homes in areas with moderate to high wildfire risk in unincorporated areas. The standards are tougher than those mandated by the state.  A final reading of the ordinance is scheduled for January 29.

 

The changes were proposed by East County’s two Supervisors, Dianne Jacob and Jim Desmond. Jacob said she hopes the new requirements will serve as a “model for fire protection” statewide, also saving lives during wildfires.

 

San Diego County has been devastated by numerous major wildfires, including the 2003 Cedar Fire and 2007 firestorms which killed 17 people and destroyed thousands of homes, causing billions of dollars in property damage.

ILLEGAL FIRE LANTERNS FOUND IN ALPINE AND SAN CARLOS SPARK FEARS

By Miriam Raftery

 Photo:  burnt remnants of sky lantern found in Alpine, courtesy 10 News

January 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – An East County Magazine investigation back in 2012 led to the State Fire Marshal to issue a bulletin advising that sky lanterns are illegal—and dangerous. Our story led to removal of sky lanterns from local Walmart shelves.

But not everyone is aware of the ban, so use of sky lanterns, which are popular for celebrations in some cultures, continues. The devices include one or more candles sent aloft beneath an open cloth, much like a hot air balloon, posing severe fire hazards. 

ECM news partner 10 News reports that on Saturday, an Alpine family on Japatul Valley Road awoke to find their horses terrified and one horse injured.  In dry brush nearby, they found remnants of a sky lantern with birthday candles attached to popsicle sticks. 

“Thank God it didn't start a fire, but it could have," Lucy Olivier told 10 News. 

CHIEF’S CORNER: GAS LEAKS IN THE HOME

 

By Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

January 5, 2020 (San Diego) -- Got Gas?  As temperatures cool down, home heating use goes up. Additionally firefighters respond to more reports of gas inside a structure call. It’s important for homeowners and renters to inspect their home-heating appliances and perform any maintenance necessary to avoid any health or safety hazards.

If you smell gas in your home or your carbon monoxide detector goes off, immediately evacuate the house and call 911.

LESSONS FROM PUERTO RICO TO CALIFORNIA: OFF-GRID LIVING OPTIONS

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

 Dec. 31, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) -- Emergency energy and electrical storage expert Eric Lobdell with Humless, a Utah-based company that provides universal energy management, has worked in disaster areas affected by wildfires and hurricanes, where he has helped some residents go off-grid. 

 

In the past couple of years, Lobdell has worked in the U.S. including territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, setting up systems to provide power. Humless recently landed a contract for installations to take communities 100% off-grid in Oregon, including 600 homes over a span of three years.

 

"After Hurricane Maria, I was part of a team that donated and installed off-grid systems in Puerto Rico," said Lobdell in a phone interview. “Our systems were able to provide lights and refrigeration to two different communities, both heavily affected by the hurricane. Being able to provide electricity for these communities reminded me of the reason I work so hard at what I do. I love being able to provide essential energy and storage systems to families, communities, and regions where grid power is not available or stable."

BOGGELN NAMED ALPINE FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT'S NEW FIRE CHIEF

East County News Service

December 19, 2019 (Alpine) -- The Alpine Fire Protection District Board of Directors today announced selection of Brian Boggeln as the District’s next Fire Chief.  He will be filling the position vacated by Fire Chief Bill Paskle, who will be retiring on December 30.  Chief Boggeln’s first official day as Fire Chief will be December 31.

Board President Jim Easterling stated, “It is with great pleasure that the Board announces that Brian Boggeln will assume the role of Fire Chief. The choice was easy due to Mr. Boggeln’s education and background with over 22 years in the fire service. The Board looks forward to working with him on all the District’s future endeavors.”

NO-BURN ORDER LIFTED FOR SAN DIEGO COUNTY



East County News Service

December 12, 2019 (San Diego) -- The burn permit suspension in San Diego County has been lifted, effective Dec. 6. Cal Fire San Diego Unit Chief Tony Mecham formally canceled the burn permit suspension and advised that those possessing current and valid agriculture and residential burn permits can now resume burning on permissible burn days.

WILDFIRE INSURANCE CRISIS LEADS COMMISSIONER TO CALL FOR FIRST-EVER STATEWIDE NON-RENEWAL MORATORIUM

Action to head off growing insurance availability crisis follows passage of new law and Governor’s emergency declarations 
 
Source: California Insurance Commissioner’s office
 
December 7, 2019 (Sacramento) -- Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has issued a mandatory one-year moratorium on insurance companies non-renewing policyholders--helping at least 800,000 homes in wildfire disaster areas in Northern and Southern California. The commissioner’s action is the result of Senate Bill 824—authored last year by Lara while serving as state senator—in order to give temporary relief from non-renewals to residents living near a declared wildfire disaster. This is the first time the department has invoked the new law, which took effect in January. 
 

MERCY AMBULANCE SKIDS OFF ROAD, LEAVING JULIAN WITHOUT MEDICAL RESPONSE FOR HOURS AS TOURISTS AND RESIDENTS EXPERIENCE “SNOWMAGEDDON”



Accident occurs soon after County Fire Authority/Cal Fire hauled away four-wheel-drive ambulances and fire engines formerly run by Julian’s volunteer fire department

County, Cal Fire and Mercy Medical Transportation fail to answer questions or provide solutions to prevent future fiascos

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

December 6, 2019 (Julian) -- As San Diegans rushed up to the mountain community of Julian last Saturday to play in the snow, a Mercy Medical Transportation, Inc. two-wheel drive ambulance under contract to the San Diego County Fire Authority and Cal Fire missed a curve on State Highway 78, landed off the side of the road and got stuck in snow for hours.

The incident occurred at 8:15 a.m. near Jess Martin Park. According to sources familiar with the situation, the two-man crew had been dispatched all the way from Valley Center, since Julian no longer has a locally stationed ambulance. The crew was reportedly unhurt and had been on the way to Julian Fire Station No. 56. It wasn’t until around 1 p.m. that a tow truck arrived to extricate the ambulance. It is unclear why neither Mercy or Cal Fire could provide a winch to free the vehicle sooner.

PRESCRIBED FIRE BURNS PLANNED AT CUYAMACA RANCHO STATE PARK IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Source:  CA Department of Parks and Recreation

December 5, 2019 (San Diego) - The California Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the California Department of Forestry and Fire protection (CAL FIRE) and other agencies are planning to conduct prescribed burns and pile burns in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park between Dec. 16, 2019 and April 30, 2020.

EARTHQUAKE EARLY WARNING APP NOW AVAILABLE

By Miriam Raftery

November 30, 2019 (San Diego) – An earthquake early warning is now available to the pubic in California through the Berkeley Seismology Lab.  MyShake collects motion data from your phone’s sensors and uses a patented neural network to determine whether that motion fits the model of an earthquake.

Through MyShake, you can have earthquake information at your fingertips, see damage reports shared by citizen scientists like you, and help build a global seismic network.  Click here to download theMyShake  app from Apple or the Google Play store.  

AFTER RULING BY JUDGE, COUNTY REMOVES ALL EQUIPMENT FROM JULIAN FIRE STATION 56, INCLUDING FIRE ENGINES, AMBULANCE AND WATER TENDER

Safety concerns raised; court ruling by Judge Randa Trapp could be death knell to Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

November 20, 2019 (Julian) -- With a stroke of a gavel, San Diego Superior Court Judge Randa Trapp on Friday morning dashed hopes of volunteers from the former Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District that the district will be resurrected anytime soon.

Judge Trapp denied the motion filed by JCFPD’s attorney Cory Briggs last April 10, which sought to invalidate the dissolution of the volunteer fire and medical protection district by the San Diego Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO). Briggs filed the motion to appeal the afternoon after LAFCO’s vote.

Within hours of Trapp’s decision Friday, despite a new appeal of Friday's judgement filed by Briggs, the County Fire Authority operated by CALFIRE raided Julian Fire Station 56, towing away or hauling off all remaining firefighting equipment of the JCFPD including fire engines and ambulances. A broker has reportedly indicated that at least some of the equipment is being put up for sale, instead of being either held for the JCFPD in case of a win on appeal, or turned over to the CFA/CALFIRE to utilize to protect Julian.

Briggs called the action a “raid.”  Some Julian residents cried, while others voiced anger.

The action leaves Julian entirely dependent upon the CFA/CAL FIRE for protection, despite grave concerns raised by many residents over serious gaps in equipment and coverage since the JCFPD was dissolved.

ALPINE FIRE CHIEF BILL PASKLE ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

Source: Alpine Fire Dept.

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Nov. 26, 2019 (Alpine) The Alpine Fire Protection District (AFPD) has announced the retirement of fire chief, Bill F. Paskle, effective Dec. 30.

At their meeting, held on Nov. 19, Paskle submitted a letter to the board of directors that board president Jim Easterling read aloud during the meeting and thanked the fire chief for his years of service to the district.

EXPLOSIVE CAVE FIRE THREATENS HOMES IN SANTA BARBARA

By Miriam Raftery

November 25, 2019 (Santa Barbara) – The fast-moving #CaveFire that started shortly after 4  p.m. along Highway 154 in the Los Padres National Forest near Painted Cave has scorched over 3,100 acres, forcing evacutions. Homes are threatened and the fire is encroaching northern portions of the city of Santa Barbara and Goleta tonight, while many are without power due to a proactive utility shut-off.

View a map of the evacuation zone here:  https://sbcoem.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=ff627ef192de40b6b19c7c2718f59028

CAL FIRE FIREFIGHTERS ENDORSE STEVE VAUS FOR SUPERVISOR IN DISTRICT 2



 

East County News Service

November 23, 2019 (San Diego) – The CAL FIRE firefighters union has endorsed Poway Mayor Steve Vaus for Supervisor.

“We recognize that Steve has a proven ability to bring people together to get things done. Most importantly, he truly cares about helping the hard-working men and women protecting our community,” says Patrick Walker, Vice President of CAL FIRE Local #2881 10th district.

SIRENS, TEXTS, EVEN CHURCH BELLS: CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE ALERTS AND EVACUATIONS STILL AD HOC

By Julie Cart, CALmatters

CALmatters is an independent public interest journalism venture covering California state politics and government.

Photo:  Residents evacuating from the Holy Fire near Lake Elsinore in 2018. Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG

November 21, 2019 (San Diego's East County) - When a fast-moving wildfire marched toward the town of Paradise more than a year ago, few who lived there were aware of it. Even though the community used the CodeRED automated emergency warning system, less than 40% of residents subscribed to the alerts.

“GOT POWER” PROGRAM ON GENERATORS AND BACK-UP POWER OPTIONS SPARKS INTEREST IN ALPINE

By Chris Whipple
 
Photo:   Alpine residents Sally and Brian Shepherd speaking with Robyn Herrick and Israel Juarez of SDGE.
 
November 21, 2019 (Alpine) -- East County residents braved the rain Monday evening to attend a community presentation at the Alpine Library titled, "Got Power?"  Representatives from KAMPS Propane, SDG&E, and Clayco Electric Inc. Solar answered questions about the Public Safety Power Shutoff program in East County during Santa Ana, high-wind conditions.  Chris Whipple, a resident of Flinn Springs, also made a brief presentation about back-up power plans that allow her to use her medical CPAP equipment when the power is out.   

GOVERNOR PROPOSES BOND TO FUND BACKUP GENERATORS AND SOLAR PANELS TO KEEP SCHOOLS OPEN DURING POWER OUTAGE

East County News Service

November 21, 2019 (Sacramento) – Schools have been hard hit statewide by utility companies’ repeated power outages intended to prevent lines from sparking wildfires—including rural and mountain school districts in San Diego’s East County. Today, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed steps to remedy the problems, including calling for a $15 billion bond to fund back-up generators and solar panels to keep schools open during unforeseen power outages, as well as other steps.

 

Future proposals may include rethinking the traditional school calendar and building in makeup days to deal with not only natural disasters but unplanned power outages, according to a press release issued today by the Calif. Dept. of Education.

RED FLAG WARNING SUNDAY, BUT RAIN IS ON THE WAY

East County News Service

November 16, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) -- The San Diego National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for Sunday, Nov. 17 from 1 a.m. to 6 p.m.  for inland valleys and foothills.  Winds of 20-30 mph are forecast, with gusts up to 50 mph and humidity around 10%. 

Rain is possibly by Tuesday, however, with an increasing likelihood of rain Wednesday through Friday.

CA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION OPENS INVESTIGATION INTO POWER OUTAGES

By Miriam Raftery
 
November 14, 2019 (San Francisco) --  The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Wednesday opened an investigation to examine recent Public Safety Power Shut-off (PSPS) events and ensure utilities are held accountable for their actions.  
 
The electric utilities under investigation are Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Liberty Utilities/CalPeco Electric, Bear Valley Electric Service, and Pacific Power, a division of PacifiCorp. In September and October 2019, the state’s investor-owned electric utilities, notably PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E, proactively de-energized power lines during high wildfire danger weather conditions to reduce the risk of utility infrastructure starting wildfires. 

GOT POWER? BE PREPARED! FORUM ON GENERATORS NOV. 19 IN ALPINE

East County News Service
 
November 8, 2019 (Alpine) – The Alpine Library will host a forum on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 5:30 p.m. for you to learn more about generators, solar battery backup and other residential emergency power options.
 
Local businesses including SDG&E, Global Power, and Kamp’s Propane will be on hand to answer your questions.
 
The library is located at 1752 Alpine Blvd. in Alpine.

CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST ISSUES NEW FIRE RESTRICTIONS

East County News Service

November 7, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) – Due to elevated fire danger, Cleveland National Forest has issued additional fire restrictions in effect from October 30, 2019 through January 1, 2020 for emergency resource protection and public safety. These are in addition to elevated fire restrictions already put into effect due to other conditions including high temperatures and high winds.

SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB LISTENS TO COMMUNITY CONCERNS IN JULIAN

Emergency fire and medical protection, SDG&E planned outages top list of concerns

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Miriam Raftery, Editor, contributed to this report

View video of townhall: https://tinyurl.com/JacobsJulianTownHall

Photo, left, by Paul Kruze:  Supervisor Dianne Jacob and SDG&E Vice President Eugene "Mitch" Mitchell fielded audience questions.

November 7, 2019 (Julian) -- Supervisor Dianne Jacob ventured into a potential firestorm when she held a scheduled town hall forum at the Julian Town Hall on October 25th in downtown Julian. Jacob’s town hall coincided with the anniversary week for the infamous 2003 Cedar Fire and 2007 Witch Creek firestorms which devastated the eastern San Diego backcountry. Up to then, both were the two worst wildfires in California history.

But the irony didn’t stop there. Moments before the town hall was set to begin, word reached the venue that a brush fire erupted near Witch Creek between Ramona and Julian. This prompted County Fire Authority/Cal Fire Chief Tony Mecham to bolt out of the town hall where he was slated to speak in order to respond to the fast-moving fire.

“We are all on edge,” acknowledged Jacob, who chairs the county’s Unified Fire Council and outlined major investments made by the county to improve fire safety. “But we are better prepared than ever before.”

That contention, however, was disputed by the president of the former Julian-Cuyamaca Fire Protection District (JCFD)'s  board of directors, as multiple fire engines and an ambulance roared past the town hall en route to the Sawday Fire in Ramona.

PERSONAL DISASTER PLANS TO BE MAILED TO RESIDENTS IN AREAS OF SEVERE FIRE RISK

By Yvette Urrea Moe, County of San Diego Communications Office

Photo:  A new updated Personal Disaster Plan is available for San Diego County residents to learn what to do before, during and after a disaster.

October 21, 2019 (San Diego) - Do you have a plan if there’s a wildfire? Or any emergency? The County of San Diego is mailing a Personal Disaster Plan to residents who live in the areas of highest fire danger in our community. Read it when you get it, discuss it with your family, complete it and practice it.

TRUMP THREATENS TO END FEDERAL AID TO CALIFORNIA TO FIGHT WILDFIRES—AFTER OFFERING RUSSIA HELP TO STOP WILDFIRES IN SIBERIA

Critics accuse President of putting partisan politics above saving lives and aiding disaster victims

By Miriam Raftery

Updated 9 p.m. with comments from Alpine Fire Chief Paskle

 

Photo screenshot off NBC video:  Easy Fire started near the Ronald Reagan Valley in Simi Valley and threatened homes in Ventura County

 

November 4, 2019 (San Diego) – Days after California Governor Gavin Newsom praised the federal government for its rapid response to catastrophic wildfires and power outages affecting millions of our state’s residents, President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to cut off all future federal funding to California.  

MERCY AIR CELEBRATES 30TH ANNIVERSARY AS A FLYING EMERGENCY ROOM

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Photo, left:  Laura Elliott and Russell Haight.

November 3, 2019 (El Cajon) -- Laura Elliott and Russell Haight work in an emergency room. A flying one. Both are employed by Mercy Air, owned by Air Methods, an air ambulance provider that works out of El Cajon’s Gillespie Field as well as other locations.

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