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I focused yesterday primarily on writing this story about the city’s report into the 2007 wildfires released yesterday.
But, at the same press conference, the county of San Diego released its own report on the wildfires. Because the county doesn’t have a fire department, the report was compiled by the county’s Office of Emergency Services.
These reports, known as “after action reports,” essentially lay out, in a lot of detail: a) what happened during the disaster; b) what the government did right; c) what the government did wrong and d) ways the government can improve on its performance next time disaster strikes.
As I pointed out in my story today, the city set 82 recommendations after the 2003 Cedar Fires. As of the city’s latest report, it had completed 33 of those recommendations. Of course, the city also just set a slew of new goals in its latest report.
The county set out 39 recommendations for itself in its latest report, and county Supervisor Greg Cox said at yesterday’s press conference that the county plans to meet all of those recommendations within a year.
Does that mean the county is much better at meeting fire recommendations than the city?
Not really. Many of the recommendations in the county report are essentially bureaucratic. There aren’t really any big ticket items in the county report that will be particularly expensive or challenging for the county to implement.
That’s primarily because the county doesn’t actually run a fire department. Its role during disasters like firestorms is essentially to act as a supervisory body that coordinates the response to the disaster through its Office of Emergency Services.
By contrast, and in fairness to the city, which has the largest fire department in the region, has dealt with some expensive and complicated goals it set back in 2003. For example, it’s funded a full-time helicopter program, it’s bought a lot of new personal wildfire fighting equipment for firefighters and it’s significantly boosted its emergency communications system.
There’s going to be a lot of focus on the county over the next few months or so as the local officials debate whether or not to start creating a consolidated countywide fire service.
Also, as I pointed out in my story today, there’s a lot of focus on creating a holistic, regional approach to dealing with the region’s periodic firestorms.
In addition to each of the local cities preparing, within themselves, for wildfires, there’s a renewed call to bond together, as a region, to provide better protection for local residents. That could mean local governments set up a firefighting strike force, headquartered somewhere in the county, that hits wildfires hard within hours of them starting up. It could also take the form of a consolidated countywide fire service that’s properly prepared to fight wildfires in the first 48-72 hours they are burning.
Either way, the county is going to be right in the middle of what, if anything, the region does to arm itself better against future firestorms, especially since those wildfires often start in rural parts of the county that aren’t currently served by a fire department.