County Firefighting Spending Falls Behind

Orange, Los Angeles counties spending much more per capita on firefighting

For a county familiar with enormous, deadly firestorms, San Diego is spending significantly less per capita on firefighting efforts than its neighbors to the north.

"The San Diego region has experienced two of the worst wildfires in California history," said Erik Bruvold, the president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research. "It is surprising that policymakers have not found a way to significantly increase
fire protection spending."

A recent report by the institute found that San Diegan this fiscal year paid $153.75 per person to fight wildfires and provide emergency medical services, while Orange County residents forked over $190.44 and those living in Los Angeles County paid $219.77 per capita.

Sure, San Diego talked a good game after the deadly 2003 and 2007 firestorms, including putting a parcel tax on the ballot, but voters quashed that effort.
"There have been a myriad meetings, reports and calls to action," Bruvold said. "That hasn't, unfortunately, resulted in the kind of investments one finds in other California counties facing a similar danger."
Staffing of the five biggest fire departments here slipped by 8.5 firefighters, while Orange County added 98 jobs and LA, 233, the report showed.

The fires in 2007 burned more than 237,000 acres, destroying thousands of homes and killing eight people. The Cedar Fire in 2003 destroyed 280,278 acres, 2,820 buildings and killed 15 people.

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