San Diego County is in its fourth year of drought and facing unprecedented conditions going into peak fire season. Vegetation is extremely dry and residents are being asked to significantly cut water use. These severe conditions have heightened fire preparedness efforts and increased the importance of coordination and collaboration among the region's 18 cities, first responders, the military, tribal leaders and the County. It is a team effort that has proven to be successful.
"I am happy to report that we have never been better prepared for wildfires than we are today," says County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn. "The County has spent more than $320 million on wildfire and emergency preparedness since 2003. We have up to 36 aircraft and 51 fire fighting vehicles available to us when the next wildfire starts to burn."
Last year, on May 13, at about 11:00 a.m., the first of the May wildfires in San Diego County started southwest of Rancho Bernardo. Over the following five days, a total of 14 fires would ignite, including the Bernardo, Cocos and Poinsettia Fires. The flames consumed a total of 26,000 acres, destroyed 65 structures and exceeded approximately $30 million in private property damage. Roughly 121,000 people were instructed by law enforcement agencies through AlertSanDiego to evacuate their homes. 2-1-1 San Diego answered about 33,000 calls, providing disaster information and connecting callers with critical recovery resources. The wildfires were the largest to hit the region since 2007, but the unified multi-agency response on the ground and in the air saved lives and property.
"We saw great teamwork last May among federal, state and local agencies to battle fires that would have likely been worse if these entities had not worked together so well," said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. "While we have more work ahead of us, we have made major strides in recent years to better protect people and property in a firestorm."
The County compiled an After Action Report from the 2014 wildfires and has since completed all of the recommended improvements. In addition, an updated version of the Red Guide to Recovery is now available in English and Spanish, and a special edition for Tribal Lands thanks to input from the Inter Tribal Long Term Recovery Foundation.
"We train for emergencies like this and the teamwork involved in the fire response and recovery effort was unprecedented," says City of Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall. "The first responders on the front lines, the city staff who kept the water flowing and streets safe, and the residents and businesses who stepped up to help each other -- they all made a difference for our community."
If you have questions about how you can be ready for the next major emergency or disaster, visit www.ReadySanDiego.org, register for AlertSanDiego and download the SD Emergency App. The tools you need to plan, prepare, and respond in an emergency will be right at your fingertips.