Keeping East County safe from wildfires

By  Joel Anderson

Those of us who live in San Diego County know that the best way to protect our homes and property from wildfires is by doing whatever can be done, not during or after a crisis, but before an event occurs. I was pleased when my colleagues on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved two wildfire preparedness measures introduced by myself and Supervisor Jim Desmond regarding wildfire preparedness.

Our first proposal directed the County to identify gaps in mitigating the impacts of Public Safety Power Shutdowns. These shutdowns occur when public utilities shut off power, during times of  windy and dry conditions that increase the chance of fire outbreaks and can affect rural residents who rely on electricity to pump well water and operate necessary medical devices.  To date, the County has directed the use of $1.8 million to mitigate the impacts of power shutdowns by purchasing emergency generators for libraries, fire stations and other facilities. Our measure directs County staff to seek additional funding that could be used for additional mitigation activities such as providing backup batteries for traffic signals at major intersections that need to be operational during evacuations.

The second item we approved directed County staff to identify public roads where vegetation clearing should be increased to enhance public safety and suppress fire hazards. Currently, the County’s Defensible Space Ordinance requires property owners to clear 10 ft of “combustible vegetation” along the sides of roadways. The Board’s action will allow this clearance to be  doubled to 20 ft in appropriate areas.

The County of San Diego maintains 2,000 miles of public roadways, a majority of which is in rural areas prone to wildfires. I consulted with the fire chiefs throughout San Diego County to gain their perspective on this action and ensure it would help protect our communities and serve as a benefit to their fire suppression efforts.

I want to thank Supervisor Desmond for working with me to introduce these measures and I appreciate my fellow Supervisors’ support to ensure we are doing all we can to protect against the destruction of dangerous wildfires that are, unfortunately, a part of living in San Diego County. There is much more work to be done and I will continue working with my colleagues to ensure we pursue every effort to not only be prepared for wildfires when they occur but hopefully, prevent them from occurring in the first place.

As always, I am interested in your thoughts and ideas on this subject. Please visit my website at www.supervisorjoelanderson.com to view these two Board Letters, learn more about my efforts to serve our community, and leave any suggestions or comments you may have as well.

Anderson represents East County on the County Board of Supervisors.

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