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The Los Angeles Times reported this weekend on the progress that fire agencies have made since the 2003 fires, when investigators found that regional and state departments were ill-equipped to handle the gigantic firestorms that swept through Southern California.

The article found five areas Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Blue Ribbon Fire Commission found lacking in 2003 that remain unfulfilled: staffing, communications, fire engine and helicopter fleets, and the frequency of nighttime air drops.

In the article, State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, a member of the blue ribbon panel, lamented the amount of money it will take for the region to catch up and officials’ lack of political will to spend it.

There’s literally billions of dollars of catch-up we have to do — in communications, training and brush clearance, not only near structures but over the thousands of acres the state and federal government controls.

With bone-dry conditions already at play this spring, 2007 is shaping up to be a potentially dangerous fire season.

The city of San Diego, whose firefighters combated the relentless Cedar Fire in 2003, has struggled to keep pace with fire stations, communications equipment and staffing. voiceofsandiego.org took a look at the city’s situation to upgrade its fire protection in February and April.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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