SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB
DATE: September 27, 2007
CONTACT: Steve Schmidt, 619-531-4766 or 619-206-9108
PREVENTING FIRE WHILE SERVING TIME: CAN COUNTY INMATES CLEAR BRUSH IN FIRE-PRONE AREAS?
SAN DIEGO – Facing extreme fire conditions in the San Diego County Backcounty, the Board of Supervisors is investigating whether County inmates can help clear dangerous brush to better protect communities from wildfires.
At the request of Supervisor Dianne Jacob, the Sheriff’s Department, the Probation Department and Cal Fire, formerly know as the California Department of Forestry, will begin to analyze the proposal right away.
Under the direction of Cal Fire, State prisoners already clear brush and even help fight larger wildfires in the region. Jacob said State crews could benefit from the assistance of County inmates because Backcountry fuel loads are extremely heavy and tinder-dry.
“There is an immediate need to reduce the fuel that will feed the next destructive wildfire, like the recent blaze that threatened Julian. If the possibility exists that local inmates can pitch in, we owe it to property owners to find out,” Jacob said.
“Of course, we have to keep public safety top-of-mind,” Jacob added. “High-risk, violent felons should be excluded from brush crews.”
Jacob said there was a time when County probationers served on special crews at a number of fire camps in the Backcountry.
“Given the record dry conditions in our wildland areas, it’s time to look at the program again,” Jacob said.
After the infamous Cedar and Paradise fires of 2003, San Diego County instituted a number of measures to better manage brush in Backcountry. The County has stepped up efforts to educate property owners about defensible space around structures and removed thousands of dead and diseased pine trees from communities at high risk of fire.
Most recently, the County continued funding a telephone hotline designed to nab people who carelessly toss cigarette butts from vehicles.