CERT prepares for fire season


Day included presentation from Weather Service

As San Diego again heads into fire season, members of the Rancho Santa Fe Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) received important training on wildfire preparedness and had their annual barbecue last Saturday at Fire Station No. 2 of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire District.

The roughly 25 CERT members are citizens who get training in first aid and disaster medicine. According to Bret Davidson, the battalion chief training officer for the Rancho Santa Fe Fire District, CERT groups originally formed to respond to earthquakes, but are now more likely to be used during wildfires.

Saturday’s session addressed protecting oneself, one’s family and neighbors in an unofficial capacity. It also addressed what CERT volunteers would be expected to do if the fire department needed them in an official capacity.

Rancho Santa Fe resident Heather Adelhelm was inspired to join CERT after the kindness local paramedics showed to her daughter, who had a heart condition.

“I would like to urge everyone to consider participating in a CERT program,” Adelhelm said. “I think it’s an outstanding program for training you how to help yourself, your family (because of) the basic first aid that you’re taught there. If you have parents who are seniors it could be really useful for you.”

A meteorologist from the National Weather Service gave a weather forecast for the remainder of the fire season and the winter months.

“The long-range forecast is for El Nino conditions; a moderate to strong El Nino,” Robert Balfour said. He said we haven’t seen such conditions for several years. He projects wet weather will hit around mid- to late October, which is good news because it means fewer Santa Ana winds and rain after years of drought.

“Our fuel moisture right now is right at the dangerous level, but it’s been better than it was in the last two years, but it’s still not in a good range because we’ve been in a continual drought,” Davidson said about the current weather conditions, adding Rancho Santa Fe area may be particularly vulnerable to fire.

“The Witch [Creek] fire burned through this area,” Davidson said. “It left a lot of grass on the ground and grass burns faster, it doesn’t burn as hot and may not be as devastating, but it moves quickly. And actually more firefighters have died in grass than any other fuel type.”

For more information on fire preparedness, visit the web site of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire District at