A task force of fire experts has drafted a map that predicts that three specific areas of San Diego County are at risk for disastrous wildfires similar to the blazes that took out 4,300 homes and killed 29 people in 2003 and 2007, it was reported today.
The San Diego Union-Tribune says three areas of particular risk encompass El Cajon, Spring Valley, Valley Center and Rancho Santa Fe. But slightly-increased rainfall has increased the amount of moisture in trees and brush, suggesting that this year's fire risk is less than last year's, fire experts told the paper.
The task force of federal and state wildfire experts projected last year that the most-vulnerable areas to massive fires were concentrated in areas that actually burned, when the Witch Creek, Harris, Poomacha, Rice Canyon and Horno fires forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people.
This year, the task force says the areas most-vulnerable include:
- about 170,000 acres stretching from Mount Laguna west to El Cajon and Spring Valley, between Interstate 8 and Alpine to the north and state Route 94 and Dulzura on the south;
- about 124,000 acres in North County, from Fallbrook and Palomar Mountain south down Interstate 15 to the fringes of Vista and Escondido; and
- the 32,000 acres surrounding Rancho Santa Fe and bordering Rancho Penasquitos, Fairbanks Ranch and Del Dios.
Other areas of concern include lesser-populated sections of East County near Campo and Buckman Springs, and the greater Julian area. Forested areas north and east of Julian did not burn last year, although the town was singed in other directions.
Some of the areas of concern have not burned in 50 years, but recently- burned areas can still be vulnerable, members of the Forest Area Safety Task Force told the Union-Tribune.
Heavier-than-normal summer thunderstorms have kept humidity levels up in the back country this summer, said Darryl Pina, a CalFire captain.
"That's not to say there won't be any fires,'' he told the newspaper. "Even during winter months, we can experience fires in Southern California.''