CA 2014 fire season: A test of government competence

CA 2014 fire season: A test of government competence

san.diego.fireThe two worst wildfires in recorded state history struck San Diego County in 2003 and 2007, as I wrote about in today’s U-T San Diego.

“In October 2003, the Cedar Fire … broke out in the Cleveland National Forest, started accidentally by a lost hunter trying to signal rescuers. It burned more than 2,800 structures and caused 15 deaths, almost entirely in East County. …

“In October 2007, the Witch-Creek fire broke out east of Ramona, triggered by a power line buffeted by Santa Anas. Before it was contained, the blaze destroyed more than 1,650 structures — with more than 300 in Rancho Bernardo, within San Diego city limits. Ten people were killed in the Witch-Creek blaze and other county wildfires that fall.”

Local, state, military and federal officials have been preparing for the next California fire apocalypse ever since. U.S Interior Secretary Sally Jewell even came to San Diego County last week to talk about wildfire preparedness and tout what the feds have done to help out, prompted by the state’s extreme drought.

Confidence in the face of chaos

What are these officials saying? There’s lots of grousing about homeowners who haven’t done enough to reduce fire risk by clearing their property of flammables. But by and large, they say they’ve been gearing up for years to prevent encores of 2003 and 2007, and that they think they’re up to the task. They cite additional personnel, big upgrades in technology and equipment, and a healthy emphasis on interagency cooperation.

This official confidence was evident in San Diego County on Wednesday even after a wild day in which at least seven separate wildfires brought out:

“[Officials] stressed that far more resources — both firefighters and equipment — were available than in 2003 and 2007, and that agencies were working well together.

“’This region is the best-prepared it’s ever been,’ said Dianne Jacob, the chairwoman of the county Board of Supervisors.

“’We’ve come a long way in the last 11 years,’ said county Sheriff Bill Gore.”

We shall see. In San Diego, the specter of multiple out-of-control wildfires is so scary that it’s tough to think from a broader perspective. But when you do think from that broader perspective, you start with the fact that there are only a few responsibilities that just about everybody thinks government should do and do well. The most obvious is public safety.

This year in parched California, millions of people with reason to worry about their safety have to hope that the local, state and federal governments rise to the challenge.


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  1. Donkey
    Donkey 15 May, 2014, 08:56

    The fire conditions in California are the same anywhere winds, low humidity, and fuel is available, explosive.

    The professional FF likes to proclaim how highly trained they are in all facets of emergency response but we continue to have these out of control fires every year. I know that FF’s don’t have the ability to control the weather anymore than Al Gore does, however they could be spending their massive hours of down time removing undergrowth and brush from around the homes of the people that pay these over priced guardians of safety their massive compensation, it won’t happen though, I am sure that the RAGWUS for the FF’s have written any manual labor by a professional FF member to be outside their job classification. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  2. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 15 May, 2014, 15:00

    Full disclosure: I am NOT the sheriff of San Diego County, nor am I related to him…

    Having said that, the fire danger in socal is ‘built in’, as I think we all know, due to : 1) the intense flammability of sage scrub vegetation 2) crazy quilt patterns of suburban development that emphasize ridgetops and views 3) a near permanent drought in the region.

    A long time ago, when I was working summers on a Forest Service hotshot crew, we had a pre-fire safety meeting before a Socal wildfire where our boss told us that 1 pound of dry chaparral had the explosive capacity of 1 cup of gasoline. These fires are very hard to control when you combine critical dryness with blowtorch winds, as we saw in 2007…..

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  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 15 May, 2014, 16:40

    There is a huge news conference going on right now, I have to laugh so hard because all they are doing, AS ALWAYS, is telling everyone how GREAT they are, how they’re doing such an awesome job, how they have prepared so hard and have never been MORE prepared…LOL..Cal Fire, SD Fire Authority, Sheriff… just non stop grand standing. These troughers have no idea what humility, modesty or humbleness is. They only know about being blowhards,

    Reply this comment
  4. Emile Sininfuego
    Emile Sininfuego 16 May, 2014, 08:30

    Lol Chris, I predict that no matter how the brave firefighters and other agencies perform you will pronounce their efforts as failed because you harbor a strange and persistent bias .

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 16 May, 2014, 11:36

    Lol Chris, I predict that no matter how the brave firefighters and other agencies perform you will pronounce their efforts as failed because you harbor a strange and persistent bias .

    I agree 100%, these GED educated men are HEROS’ and deserve! Anyone who dares disagree with a GED educated firewhiner pulling down a $350K comp package is a h8ter!!!!!… and harbors a strange and persistent bias against America’s HEROS’!!!!

    I know this is 100% true because they made a video proving it;

    Reply this comment
  6. Emile s
    Emile s 16 May, 2014, 16:17

    That vid was funny the first 5 times you posted it, now it only serves to demonstrate your lack of imagination.

    Reply this comment
  7. Bud Led Ted S.
    Bud Led Ted S. 17 May, 2014, 20:57

    it was funny 3 years ago sorry little buddy.

    Reply this comment

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