County: We're More Prepared for Fires Than We've Ever Been - NBC 7 San Diego

County: We're More Prepared for Fires Than We've Ever Been

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    NEWSLETTERS

    More than 60 structures around the county were destroyed last May from all of the fires. A year after the devastating May Wildfires, County leaders and firefighters are talking about the lessons they learned and the changes they've made. NBC 7's Steven Luke reports. (Published Wednesday, May 13, 2015)

    County officials used the anniversary of the May Fires of 2014 to update the public on how prepared public agencies are for a similar scenario this year. The message to residents was that the county is more prepared for wildfires than we've ever been.

    For five days residents watched as 14 separate fires burned across 14,000 acres, destroying 65 structures and causing an estimated $30 million in property damage.

    “This canyon looked a lot different the last time we were here,” said Supervisor Bill Horn when fire officials gathered in Carlsbad Wednesday.

    But the damage could’ve been much worse, Horn said, crediting an unprecedented response from local, state and federal agencies.

    Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall recalled the beginning moments of the Poinsettia Fire when he and Carlsbad Fire Chief Mike Davis saw a large black cloud and called for help. 

    “We realized at that moment in time, given the wind conditions and what was happening, it was not going to be a good day,” Hall said.

    There are ongoing investigations into what caused some of the fires, according to Cal Fire Deputy Chief Kevin Lawson.

    He noted a teenager was convicted of starting the Cocos Fire in San Marcos and there was an arrest in connection with an Oceanside Fire.

    As for the Poinsettia Fire, Lawson said the cause is still undetermined.

    “I don’t know if you could put your finger on one simple person as a cause for all of these fires,” Lawson said.

    Looking ahead to this summer, the statewide drought has intensified the fire danger in San Diego County.

    “We’re better prepared for wildfire than we’ve ever been,” County Supervisor Diane Jacob said.

    Agencies are working under the goal of extinguishing wildfires when they are 10 acres or less, she said.

    A third firefighting helicopter will go into service in September and would insure there were two operating at any time across the county.

    County Office of Emergency Services has also formed partnerships with religious organizations and other community groups who can jump in to spread information to non-English speaking residents.

    “Every single person out there has a role in our mission to save lives and protect property,” said OES Director Holly Crawford. She urged residents to register for “Reverse 911” with their mobile phone numbers so they can be informed of evacuations in their area. 

    Chief Mike Davis said defensible space saves homes. If potable water cannot be used to maintain these areas in the statewide drought, he suggested homeowners look for other ways to maintain this space.

    Davis said there may be ways to remove vegetation without harming the environment or destablizing cliffs and advised homeowners to check with local agencies.