Officials gear up for peak wildfire season


City News Service

As the peak wildfire season approaches, fire officials Wednesday urged San Diego County residents to be prepared by clearing brush and other combustibles away from their property, having important documents ready to go and leaving when told to evacuate.

Higher than normal rainfall has resulted in increased grass and vegetation across the state, especially in San Diego’s East County, said Cal Fire Chief Howard Windsor.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has issued an executive order providing for additional resources for San Diego County during the peak fire season, which runs from June through October, Windsor said.

Firefighters in San Diego County hope to contain all blazes within the first two hours, to 10 acres or less, Windsor said.

Chief Augie Ghio, of the San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District, said it’s important to educate the community on what they can do to prepare before a wildfire happens.

Besides clearing brush and weeds away from property, residents should have an evacuation plan, keep key documents at the ready and should leave their homes as soon as they are told to do so.

“Get out of Dodge,” Ghio said. “Don’t be part of the problem.”

Cleveland National Forest fire Chief Carlton Joseph said San Diego County has a lot of “flashy fuel” that can burn quickly in a wildfire, especially in areas such as Laguna Footprint near Mount Laguna.

“Anything that can burn will burn under these worst-case conditions,” he said.

Firefighters continue to have fixed-wing aircraft and water-dropping helicopters at their disposal, but preparedness helps minimize the damage and prevents loss of life, officials said.

Firefighters are still at the whim of Mother Nature when it comes to factors such as wind and low humidity, Windsor said.

“There is no magic pill,” he told reporters, reiterating the importance of educating the public on fire preparedness. “We can get knocked off our feet.”

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was asked is she felt safe from wildfires in San Diego County.

“I feel a lot safer today than back in 2003,” the supervisor said.

The Cedar Fire in October 2003 burned more than 28,000 acres in the city of San Diego, destroyed 335 structures and killed 15 people.