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San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders announced plans Wednesday to clear 120 acres of the city’s open space in an effort to reduce risk of future brush fires during what he called “the driest conditions California has seen in 90 years.”

The new brush-clearing program was made possible by an additional $645,000 allocation to the Park and Recreation Department’s brush management program. The program included an analysis of all 1,180 acres of city open space and singled out 21 parcels deemed highest risk. The program will also include the hiring of an additional four city staff for the brush-clearing program for a total of seven full staff plus contracted workers. The city has funding to clear 210 acres of brush, but is initially removing 120 acres it has identified as the highest risk.

“We only have funding to clear 210 acres, which is three times the amount of brush clearing the city normally does,” Sanders said. “But it still falls short of the 590 acres the city has traditionally set as a target to be thinned each year.”

The analysis of the city open space was conducted by the city’s Fire-Rescue Department. The rating system looked at five factors that increased the area’s fire risk:

  • Density of vegetation
  • Slope severity
  • Five minute response time
  • Type of roads surrounding the area
  • Proximity to fire hydrants

Stacey LoMedico, director of the Park and Recreation Department, said the brush clearing began on Monday near Pico Street and Clairmont Mesa Road, and should be completed by December.

Other parcel areas will be cleared in Tierrasanta, Carmel Valley, University City, Linda Vista, La Jolla Village, Del Cerro and Scripps Ranch.

Sanders said the city will also find out in December if it received the multi-million dollar brush management FEMA grant the city applied for in 2005.

“If the city receives the funding we will be in a good position to expand the program and reach our thinning goal target by fiscal year 2009,” Sanders said.

If the city does not receive the grant, Sanders said he and Council President Scott Peters are discussing other ways to allocate funding toward the brush-clearing program.

SUSAN GRANT

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