San Diego city and county leaders Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the devastating 2007 wildfires — and said the massive fires in Northern California are a tragic reminder that it could happen here again.
Gathered at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, home of the Sheriff’s Department ASTREA air attack base, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Supervisor Dianne Jacob and others cited what they said are major improvements in fire protection since a string of deadly blazes tore through the region in October 2007.
It was one of the most destructive fire seasons in California history and triggered the largest evacuation San Diego County has ever seen.
But officials expressed concern over a new survey of local residents that found that only half are prepared to evacuate their homes within 15 minutes of a crisis, compared to 74 percent a decade ago.
“We learned many hard lessons during the 2007 fires, but for some residents it doesn’t look like those lessons stuck,” said Jacob, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors. “Clearly, we need to step up our level of preparedness at home. Being prepared starts with all of us.”
In nearly the past 15 years, the county said it has invested more than $400 million in fire protection improvements in the region’s most vulnerable areas. The bulk of the spending has been since 2007, according to officials.
“We learned the hard way in 2003 and 2007 that fires don’t stop at jurisdictional boundaries and we must work together as a region to combat wildfires,” Faulconer said. “We’re now coordinating better than ever among our fire agencies and stand ready to assist each other, share resources and advanced technology, and overcome any challenge that comes our way. We all have a shared goal: Stopping wildfires in their tracks to protect the lives and property of our fellow San Diegans.”
Officials with the county Office of Emergency Services say they’re putting the finishing touches on the recent survey of nearly 1,100 residents.
In addition to showing a declining level of readiness to evacuate, only 38 percent said they have an emergency plan in case of a disaster, down from 50 percent in 2007, according to officials.
Supervisor Jacob and others urged residents to go to readysandiego.org and to make sure they have a disaster plan and emergency supplies in case of a crisis.
She said they should also sign up for reverse 911 notifications through AlertSanDiego, get the SD Emergency app for their phone and clear dry brush and other fuels from around their homes.
“The deadly wildfires in Northern California have been heartbreaking,” she said. “They are also a brutal reminder of the dangers we face here every day.”
Since 2007, county officials tout boosted air and ground firefighting resources. In 2008, it established the County Fire Authority to coordinate wildfire protection across 1.5 million rural acres.
The City of San Diego too has continued to improve its capabilities and technologies, according to officials.
–City News Service
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