News Release


DATE: October 25, 2006

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


Additional Resources, Improved Communications since 2003 Firestorms

El Cajon, CA - Thanks to communications upgrades, two firefighting helicopters and many other measures, the San Diego region has improved demonstrably its ability to fight wildfires, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said this morning as she marked the third anniversary of the Cedar Fire, the largest fire disaster in California history.

"The successful snuffing out of the Horse Fire just weeks ago showcased many positive changes made since the devastating firestorm of 2003,” Jacob said noting the successful launch of the County’s real time emergency website and its dramatically improved Emergency Operations Center.

“The public should be encouraged by these changes because they offer proof positive of the County’s commitment to improved fire protection,” Jacob added.

Changes made in the wake of the Cedar and Paradise include:

  • Landmark agreement between military and the California Department of Forestry (CDF) allows military resources to assist during fires
  • CDF pilots given discretion over water drops at sunset  
  • Reverse 9-1-1 phone system aids Sheriff’s Department with evacuations by dialing simultaneously hundreds of homes
  • Two County-owned firefighting helicopters now at-the-ready to fight fire
  • Unincorporated area fire departments have additional resources and improved equipment provided by millions in grants from Indian gaming tribes
  • $8.5 million to enhance fire and emergency medical services in underserved communities in the unincorporated area
  • Improved computer and wireless technology in the Emergency Operations Center of the Office of Emergency Services, considered the “never center” during disasters
  • $20.5 million in upgrades to the Regional Communications System, the internal radio networked used by emergency officials during disasters
  • Launch of, which posts critical information in “real time”
  • Effort to consolidate the more than 50 separate fire districts in the region continues through the Local Agency Formation Commission. A key study is due out in early 2007.
  • $45 million in Federal and County grants used to fight bark beetle infestation by clearing Backcountry of dead and diseased trees
  • Fire chiefs given final approval over brush clearance around structures
  • County and CDF working to educate homeowners about “defensible space” around structures
  • Changes in building codes. Homes in high risk fire zones must use tempered glass for sky lights, boxed in eaves and metal rain gutters. All new construction must have fire resistant roofing and walls and dual glazed windows

“No emergency response system is perfect, but ours has made giant strides since the days of the firestorms. Natural disasters like Katrina remind us that preparing for disaster means preparing for a variety of threats,” said Jacob.

“It’s not a matter of if another disaster will happen. It’s a matter of when,” Jacob said.