Friday, April 9, 2010

County of San Diego supervisors requesting an executive order for full staffing

The County of San Diego is seeking full staffing and other resources from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) for this year’s peak fire season.
   A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote directed the county’s chief administrative officer (CAO) to prepare a letter to be signed by the five county supervisors requesting an executive order by Governor Schwarzenegger to increase wildfire protection, preparedness and education levels in San Diego County during the county’s peak fire season.
   The CAO was also directed to solicit the support of the county’s 18 incorporated cities for such an executive order and to work with the county’s lobbyist in Sacramento to ensure that the letter is received by the governor’s office and by each of San Diego County’s state legislators.
   “This is a very, very important issue,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “CalFire has been an incredible partner.”
   In each year from 2005 to 2009 Governor Schwarzenegger issued an executive order to increase wildfire preparedness levels in the San Diego region as the peak fire season approached. The executive orders typically add an additional $5 million to $6 million to the $26 million budgeted by the state for firefighting resources in the San Diego region. 
   An executive order allows CalFire to hire additional staff, which provides a fourth firefighter on each of the agency’s 26 state-funded fire engines, funds all 21 CalFire personnel involved in the cooperative helicopter program, which utilizes aircraft assigned to the county’s Sheriff’s Department, and provides staffing to augment regional preparedness.
   “We really do rely to a large extent on getting these resources,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price.
   In addition to city fire departments and local fire protection agencies, the land within the county also includes state responsibility areas where CalFire is responsible for wildfire suppression and structural fire protection and federal responsibility areas under control of the U.S. Forest Service.
   Volunteer fire departments complement public agencies while local fire safe councils assist in preparedness issues. In 2005 and 2006 the supervisors approved contracts with CalFire to augment service in areas not adequately protected.
   This year San Diego County did not experience the droughts it has seen in past years, but the rainfall poses a different fire problem. 
   “We’re going to see a lot of new plant growth,” said Supervisor Bill Horn. “That’s going to increase our fuel loads.”

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