Should You Stay and Defend?

Local firefighters discuss providing real information for homeowners who choose to stay and fight the flames

Rancho Bernardo homeowner Fred Gahm was one of the lucky ones.  His home survived when the Witch Fire destroyed so many homes in his neighborhood on October 22, 2007.

Like many of his neighbors he evacuated but he now says if there is a next time, he’ll stay and do what he can to protect his property.

"As far as I know the ones who stayed were successful,” said Gahm “The houses were saved."

Devastating fires force each homeowner to make the decision to stay and defend or evacuate.

"People are staying behind, and doing so in sort of a seat-of-the-pants decision making process, uninformed, unprepared, and we're seeing that kind of happen and that concerns us," said Maurice Luque, San Diego Fire and Rescue spokesperson.

Now, local fire fighters and county leaders are investigating a stay and defend program that would help homeowners make an informed decision.

A pilot program is already moving forward in Ventura County. A wildfire action plan that provides details for homeowners on not only how to make the right decision, but also what they’ll face as a consequence of that decision.

"What it's going to mean in terms of their physical and mental wellbeing to stay through a wildfire, with all the noise and the smoke and distractions and all the other issues that come up," said Luque.

It's the new hot topic in fire prevention. One that firefighters promise will only become more important as wildfire danger becomes more common in Southern California.

One of the big problems at this point is money, most fire departments and agencies don't have the extra finances to fund a public awareness campaign - like the one underway in Ventura County.

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