Jennings Fire hits too close to home

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Fire season is in full swing and yesterday’s Jennings Fire was way too close to home for most of East County, creating a standstill on Interstate 8 and quickly putting homes and property in jeopardy. I can’t say enough to give the proper thanks to our local first responders from across the county that jumped on the fire as quickly as it spread. They are true heroes of our community and there is not enough that can be said about them. They jumped right into action, risking their own lives for the safety of our communities.

Fire season is in full swing and yesterday’s Jennings Fire was way too close to home for most of East County, creating a standstill on Interstate 8 and quickly putting homes and property in jeopardy. I can’t say enough to give the proper thanks to our local first responders from across the county that jumped on the fire as quickly as it spread. They are true heroes of our community and there is not enough that can be said about them. They jumped right into action, risking their own lives for the safety of our communities. Thank you is not enough, but it is a sincere feeling knowing that they have our backs, especially in our fire prone backcountry community.

I received the first photo from one of our writers Rebecca Williamson from a neighborhood in Santee quickly after the fire began. Stepping out of our office here in El Cajon I could see the large plume of smoke towering over the El Cajon City Hall building and its closeness to our proximity was nothing short of ominous. 

There were many things in the fast and furious hours that had many anxious and worried that came so close to our Alpine community, even with our sister paper The Alpine Sun, standing ready to evacuate immediately.

Social media was crazy, but I stumbled upon one post on Facebook that really touched me with the quick unselfish response in the midst of immediate danger for many in our community that were in the path of this wild fire.

Within the hour, Jessica Hanson, owner of Sun Colors Ranch in Ramona publically posted her ability to take in horses dogs, people, trailers and RV’s if evacuation was needed. In such a short time she quickly told people what she had available in space and equipment for those who might need to evacuate, opening up her address and phone number to the public for those in need of assistance. Her immediate response and willingness to help was nothing short of remarkable and touching. She set an excellent example of the Good Samaritan and in this time of fire season, we need more of that. Although I had no need of relocation of family and animals, her unselfishness touched me.

Which brings me to a thought. We have many people with large properties, ranches and the ability to take in evacuees at a moments notice. As quickly as our first responders get out information for places to evacuate to, with the number of people that live in East County with an entire variety of animals large and small, there should be a place where kind people like Jessica Hanson can post their availability to others that can be found easily when you find your property and animals in danger. If most of the people that can handle taking in people and especially large animals and pets could all post what they have available during a wildfire crises, this would be a more than useful tool for East County residents.

There are many ways this can be done. A website, Facebook page or a dedicated page on our first responders and city websites could easily be a venue, or a quick reference for those that are willing to be on a continuous ability to help evacuees across East County. This could be a life saving service and could relieve our emergency teams in getting the word out about possible evacuation places, depending on where the fire is.

This is really food for thought that I would like to see come to fruition. If we already have designated evacuation points for people with ranch and farm animals that have the space and equipment to corral horses, kennel dogs, feeders, pastures and the necessities needed for larger animals, it would make evacuation much easier and less burdensome if more people like Hanson come together and make themselves a permanent evacuation site. If these are spread out throughout East County, it really doesn’t matter where the fire is because there would be an immediate list for those in danger to go to and quickly evacuate with a place to go. We need more people like Hanson, and I truly believe a permanent site for people like her to post where they are at and what they have to offer could offer another level of fire preparedness that is much needed.

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