CHAIRWOMAN DIANNE JACOB
San Diego County
Board of Supervisors

MAYOR KEVIN FAULCONER
City of San Diego

Contacts: Steve Schmidt, 619-206-9108, steve.schmidt@sdcounty.ca.gov

Greg Block, 619-227-3752, gsblock@sandiego.gov
 

NEWS RELEASE
10/18/17
 

CITY, COUNTY LEADERS MARK 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF DEADLY 2007 WILDFIRES

San Diego city and county leaders today 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, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Supervisor Dianne Jacob and others cited major improvements in fire protection since a string of deadly blazes tore through the region in October 2007.

But they 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 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.

“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,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “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.”

The county Office of Emergency Services is putting the finishing touches on a 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.

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 heart-breaking,” she said. “They are also a brutal reminder of the dangers we face here every day.”

Since 2007, the county has substantially 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. For example, this past summer the city acquired the “Fire Boss,” which is a single engine air tanker that can carry up to 800 gallons of water to dump on any nearby wildfires.

The city also introduced a new partnership with General Atomics that – through cutting-edge technology – gives firefighting personnel an eye-in-the-sky that provides advanced real-time fire data.

The Witch Fire, Harris Fire and other blazes a decade ago killed 10 people, gutted thousands of structures and burned 580 square miles. Many began on Oct. 21, 2007.

It was one of the most destructive fire seasons in California history and triggered the largest evacuation San Diego County has ever seen.

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