Fire, sheriff’s department have three months to develop safety suggestions

The March 12 meeting of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors included a direction to the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to en­hance fire safety in the county.

The supervisors’ 5-0 vote directed the Chief Administrative Officer to work with the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority, the Sher­iff’s Department, other county departments, and outside agencies to develop a plan to enhance protection against wildfires in existing and future communities and to return to the board within 90 days with recommendations. The focus will be on five objectives: developing and implementing a more cohesive pre-fire strategy including expan­sion and increased support to fire safe councils, enhancing pre-fire vegetation management including the expansion of community chip­ping programs and working with agencies at all levels of government to develop a cooperative vegetation management plan including poten­tial legislative changes to reduce or eliminate burdensome regulations for controlled burns and fire breaks, improving pre-fire emergency plan­ning including enhancing existing technology and geographic infor­mation system mapping for better protection of at-risk communities, strengthening fire safety measures in new construction including stricter building requirements in the fire code for buildings in high-risk areas, and reducing wildfire loss in existing structures includ­ing increased frequency of defen­sible space inspections and the development of a grant program to encourage fire-resistant building improvements.

“I applaud the program,” said Supervisor Jim Desmond. “We can make our communities safer.”

The county has 37 fire safe coun­cils which provide education and assistance programs. The county also has approximately 60,000 homes on land consid­ered to be at high risk for a wildfire. Building codes and fire codes can require that new homes in high-risk areas have safer walls, vents, and other fire-resistant materials, and im­provements can also be made to existing homes especially if grants or other incentives allow the homeowner to afford such increased fire resistance.

A cooperative vegetation man­agement plan would require the county to work with state and Federal agencies and possibly with other local agencies.

“There has to be a marriage between the fire service and the fire ecology,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “It has to be done right, and if it’s done right it’s very effective.”

The vegetation management proposals also include shorten­ing the defensible space inspection cycle from every five years to every three years. The expan­sion of wood chipping programs will reduce fuel for a potential wildfire.

The technology improve­ments could include new GIS mapping, fire station electronic wall map displays, evacuation process training, and enhance­ments to the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority pre-fire website.

“I look forward to seeing this action come back to the board in June with recommendations,” Jacob said.


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