By Dave Druker
Mayor, city of Del Mar
Last year we received a reminder of the destructive potential of wildfire and evidence that the City of Del Mar is not immune from such a threat. We have worked to improve fire safety in the city on an ongoing basis. Since October of 2007 the City Council has worked closely with the fire department to reduce the potential of fire having an adverse effect on our city. The result has been a multi-faceted approach to community fire safety.
The first facet of the approach was to begin inspections of homes in Del Mar's Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). These inspections will be ongoing to assist homeowners meet the requirements of the WUI code. Prior to July 1, 2008 the WUI was defined as the areas within 100 feet of brush covered areas. These homes are required to meet the requirements of the WUI code which regulate construction features in new homes and define defensible spaces around homes. Homes in the WUI are required to maintain 30 feet of a greenbelt with low lying, well spaced vegetation immediately adjacent to the home and another 70 feet of thinned vegetation beyond the greenbelt. Vegetation management is the most important aspect of a home surviving a wildfire.
The second facet of our preparations was education of the public regarding the threat of wildfire and steps that could be taken by homeowners to protect their lives and property. Deputy Fire Chief Dismas Abelman participated with staff from the San Diego Natural History Museum to present the "Living with Wildfire" seminar three times in the City Hall Annex. Education will be ongoing to help the community be as prepared as possible.
The third facet of our preparations was updating the building and fire codes. The city adopted the codes the state had previously adopted and made them more restrictive in areas that would specifically benefit Del Mar. Construction features of new structures will reduce the risk of fires starting in our city and spreading to adjacent properties.
The steps taken since the 2007 fires were not the first taken to improve fire safety in Del Mar. In 2004 the City Council adopted the WUI code that allowed the fire department to enforce the code in our WUI. In 2006 the city used grant funds to remove vegetation on public and private lands in our WUI.
These steps won't be our last. The fire department is working with a group of engaged citizens to address fire safety concerns throughout the city. The City Council has allocated funds for the fire department to use for vegetation removal on public lands. The department has applied for a grant to leverage these funds to maximize the amount of work that can be performed. The City Council is scheduled to adopt new WUI codes that have been adopted by the state. These codes make the WUI much larger than the previous distance of 100 feet. Fire Safety is a work in progress and will require a coordinated effort to maintain the improvements we have made. We look back proudly at what we have accomplished and look forward to being safer than ever because of the community's efforts. There is more work to be done, so if you have more questions contact the Del Mar Fire Department at (858) 755-1522. They look forward to helping you every step of the way.