Wildfire News

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. 

HIGH FIRE DANGER, SANTA ANA WINDS STARTING TONIGHT

CAL Fire gears up with extra airpower, asks homeowners to take defensive
steps;
SDG&E may cut power in high-risk areas

Story and photos by
Miriam Raftery

October 12, 2008 (El Cajon) - CAL Fire has issued a warning that the
danger of wildfire is high due to forecasts of Santa Ana winds starting tonight
combined with already hot, dry conditions in San Diego’s East County.

“We
provide the offense,” CAL Fire Batallion Chief Ray Chaney said at a press
conference this morning, where reporters received a briefing on preparations
being made to battle a major conflagration.  “It’s up to homeowners
to provide the defense.”

A FIERY ARGUMENT

Fire Chief, City and County leaders debate pros and cons of fire
tax

By Miriam Raftery

2007 San Diego wildfires destroyed over 3,400 structures
and killed 15
people (photo: La Mesa Fire Dept.)

October
1, 2008 (SAN DIEGO) -
“We have to stop turning to others
to solve our problems,” said Ron Roberts, Chair of  San Diego’s
Board of Supervisors.  He urged voters to support Proposition A, the fire
parcel tax initiative on the November ballot.

 “The most recent state budget had money for 150 new fire trucks.
We expected 15.  We were told we would get five,” Roberts added,
noting that during the 2007 firestorms, only three aircraft fought fires locally
during the crucial first 24 hours: all San Diego city and county helicopters. 

PENDLETON FIRE 100% CONTAINED

October 9, 2008 (Camp Pendleton) 9:30 a.m. -- A wildfire that began late yesterday afternoon at Camp Pendleton is now 100% contained, though firefighters continue to douse hotspots.

"Between 900 and 1,000 acres have burned," Major Kristen Lasica, Public affairs officer told East County Magazine last night. ECM activated our wildfire alert system last night after learning that aircraft including super scoopers were grounded for the night with the fire then 0% contained.

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"HISTORIC" AGREEMENT SIGNED: ALLOWS NIGHT-FLYING HELICOPTERS TO FIGHT WILDFIRES ON STATE LANDS IN EAST COUNTY

By Miriam Raftery

San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarmon shakes
hands with CAL-FIRE Chief Howard Windsor as Mayor Jerry Sanders looks on

October 1, 2008 (El Cajon) -- “This
is a historic occasion,”  said Fire Chief Howard
Windsor with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL
FIRE).  Speaking at the San Diego Sheriff’s facility at Gillespie
Field in El Cajon, Windsor announced an agreement with San Diego Fire-Rescue
Department allowing CAL FIRE use of San Diego City-owned helicopters to fly
night firefighting missions on state wild lands in East County. 

7 BANDS HOLD CONCERT TO HELP FIRE VICTIMS OCT 4

ROC For Fire Relief Concert and Fire Expo Helps Neighbors, Celebrates
Heroes

Saturday, October 4th, 2008
12:00pm to 10:00pm
Lakeside Rodeo Grounds, Lakeside
www.rocsd.net
Listen to music from
the bands.

 

October 1, 2008 (Lakeside) - “Relief is still needed in a serious way,” said Randy Seol of
the band Strawberry Alarm Clock, a longtime San Diego resident who watched
in horror with the rest of us as our county was ravaged by the 2003 and 2007
wildfires. Some fire survivors are now losing their FEMA trailers; many
are struggling in severe financial and emotional need to rebuild their lives,
he added. 

A Firestorm of Controversy - Still No County Fire Department Five Years After Cedar Blaze

Ballot measure will ask voters to approve tax for fire services

By E.A. Barrera



"Given the existing high-risk conditions that are projected to continue into the future, destructive firestorms will certainly occur again. Yet, even armed with this knowledge and after the Cedar Fire wake-up call, the San Diego region is woefully unprepared." - San Diego County Grand Jury, May 29, 2008

September 1, 2009 (East County)--October will mark the first anniversary of the Witch Creek Fires and fifth anniversary of the deadlier Cedar Fire.  Four years have passed since voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition "C" which called for a Countywide Fire Department.  Yet the County of San Diego is still at the nascent stage of organizing collective fire departments of the region into one unified command structure.

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