Experts ready to share knowledge, tips for wildfire mitigation

During the last two years of the pandemic safety fairs have been conducted as drive thru events, but this year is a return to in-person attendance. Pictured at a previous event Robyn Brookshire, SDG&E community resilience advisor

CalFire, San Diego Gas and Electric, the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County and other groups will all be on hand with information, presentations, demonstrations and more at a wildfire safety fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 16 at the east end of Viejas.

CalFire Captain Thomas Shoots said this year’s safety fair will feature a presentation that was impossible to host while the fairs were held in a drive-through format for the past two years.

“Drive-through wildfire safety fairs were held in 2020 and 2021 and over the course of both years thousands of community members from across San Diego County and our tribal communities came out and received safety kit backpacks filled with everything from solar chargers and light bulbs to first aid kits, flashlights, and evacuation plan information from the comfort of their cars. We are excited and looking forward to another successful year, only this time in-person,” SDGE Community Resilience Adviser Robyn Brookshire said.

Having in-person attendees, Shoot said, provides educators with a chance for more in-depth conversations about defensible space and emergency notifications.

“There are new requirements coming out on defensible space people should know about. Sometimes it’s hard to have longer talks with people in a quick 30-second conversation at a booth. The presentation is a longer format but people will walk away with a good sense of home hardening and defensible space,” Shoots said.

Defensible space, or firescaping, is the practice of maintaining an area specifically designed to reduce fire danger, whether that is around a residential home or in the wildland-urban interface.

Shoots also said being back in person allows officials time to explain the importance of signing up to receive emergency notifications on cellular phones, a conversation that was tough to tackle when the events were pushed to a drive-through format. Often, residents will stop to talk and ask specific questions about their homes and the possibility of fire, sparking a conversation that would not otherwise happen between fire officials and local homeowners.

Alpine Fire Marshal Jason McBroom said Alpine Fire Protection District will also have an information booth at the event alongside Sunrise Powerlink which provides grants for eligible homeowners to create defensible space or harden their homes against fire. Firewise USA, a group that works with residents to reduce home fire risk will also be there, McBroom said.

“The free wildfire safety fair will also give guests an opportunity to speak with SDGE’s Meteorology and Vegetation Management teams,” SDGE Wildfire Resilience and Operations Manager Mark Mezta said, along with American Red Cross workers, 211 San Diego staff and San Diego County Animal Services, all of whom work as partner agencies in an emergency.

“Peak wildfire season is right around the corner, and we want community members to come out and ask questions about how best to protect their family and property before wildfire season arrives,” Brookshire said.

Three wildfires have already hit San Diego County in 2022 and burnt over 700 acres of land near Dulzura.

“Stop by and see us. We have tons to talk about,” McBroom said.

Viejas is located at 5000 Willows Road.