Friday, May 30, 2008

San Diego Grand jury issues scathing report about fire preparedness

The Grand Jury of San Diego County investigated the response to the Witch Creek and Guejito fires of last fall that burned 368,340 acres, destroyed 2,653 structures, and claimed the lives of 10 citizens . They just issued their report and it pulls no punches.

They began by pointing out the recommendations that were not implemented within the city of San Diego after the Cedar fire of 2003 which burned 376,237 acres, destroyed 3,241 structures, and killed 15 citizens and 1 firefighter:
  • Fund staffing and resources needed for long duration incidents.
  • Remove open cab apparatus from service--partially completed.
  • Fund develop, and train personnel to function at all Unit Leader positions in the Logistics Section.
  • Establish a fleet of three fire-rescue helicopters.
Then they identified other problem areas within the city of San Diego, some of which include:
  • Serious gaps in fire protection coverage.
  • No comprehensive plan to improve coverage.
  • The fire department is not involved in the City planning process.
Issues within the county of San Diego include the fact that the budget for fire protection for the county is $8.5 million annually, as opposed to neighboring Orange County which spends $260 million and Los Angeles County that spends $860 million. Orange county has about the same population as San Diego county, but is only 18% of the size geographically as San Diego county.

Some of the recommendations:
  • The city should increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (bed tax in hotels, motels) in order to improve fire protection levels, including additional stations, engines, firefighters, training, and equipment. So.... they want tourists to pay for adequate fire protection, rather than the property owners who would benefit.
  • Consolidation of County Fire Agencies.
  • Increasing county funding for fire protection.
  • Staff 28 rural fire stations 24/7.
  • Create the position of San Diego County Fire Commander.
Call me a cynic, but I wonder if this report will just gather dust on the shelf like the others.

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