News Release


DATE: August 13, 2002

CONTACT STEVE SCHMIDT AT 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108



SAN DIEGO - After a unanimous vote by Supervisors, the County is asking local fire agencies to join with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) and other public agencies to devise a regional action plan that would remove dying brush from high-risk fire areas.

"Right now, we have no definitive vegetation management plan for our region," said Supervisor Dianne Jacob who chairs the County's Task Force on Fire Prevention and Emergency Services. "In the interest of pubic safety, the County can and must orchestrate a brush-clearing action plan," said Jacob.

Jacob said the devastating Pines Fire, which burned more than 60,000 acres and destroyed nearly 40 homes in the Julian area, highlights the immediate need to maintain fuel breaks, clear dry vegetation from structures and investigate additional prescribed burns for the County's unincorporated areas. She said that drought conditions in the East County make the brush-clearing action plan a matter of urgency.

"It's time to refocus on preventative fire fighting strategies," Jacob said. "Fuel breaks, like the one near the unincorporated community of Whispering Pines, are instrumental in slowing the flames of a fire and give
firefighters the gift of precious time when seconds counts. Prescribed burns help reduce the risk of large wildfires and improve growing conditions for native plant and wildlife species," she said.

In addition to the brush-clearing action plan, Supervisors voted to consider creating a residential chipping program that would help property owners dispose of vegetation cleared from structures. Currently, this service is provided by private companies and the cost can be prohibitive to many residents.

According to the plan approved by Supervisors today, the regional brush clearing action plan will be developed by the County's fire code specialist and fire services coordinator along with a team of officials from CDF, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, fire districts and state and federal wildlife agencies.

"The Pines Fire taught us that brush clearance is an effective way to prevent fire,"Jacob said. "We cannot wait until flames are lapping at homes to clear property of deadly dry brush," said Jacob.