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Many residents of San Diego will never forget the catastrophic fires of this past fall. In some cases, people lost literally everything they had and were simply grateful to escape with their lives. We saw the largest evacuation in the region’s history and hundreds of thousands of people were impacted by evacuations and school closings.

As a 28-year veteran firefighter, I have a somewhat different perspective on the fires.

That perspective deeply impacts my strong support of George George. We started the battle against these wind-driven fires way “behind the eight ball.” You may have heard people joke about the fact that, in one case, firefighters responded on a fire engine that is used by a local business for birthday party rentals. This is truly shameful.

Now that the fires are over and we are back to our normal fire and rescue duties, what exactly can George George do to help us that other councilmembers cannot?

1.) George understands how to protect us at a price we can afford. Most councilmembers don’t understand enough about firefighting to help us build the kind of fire and rescue department we need with a reasonable price tag. Yes, we need additional money to make it happen, but we also need somebody who is looking out for the taxpayers and can squeeze every ounce of protection out of the dollars spent on fire and rescue.

2.) George can work with state and federal agencies to increase our firefighting resources. George has a track record of working with state and federal agencies to get grants and other resources while he was fire chief of Solana Beach. We can only make our local dollars go so far. Right now we have nobody on the City Council who is making funding for fire and rescue a top priority. George will.

3.) George will never be silent on this subject. As firefighters, it is frustrating to watch politicians claim great progress when we know our firefighting resources in some parts of the city are worse than they were in the 1970s. George is running to get things done, not to sugarcoat the situation so he has nice quotes for his re-election mailers. He will make progress or he will tell you he didn’t get it done. That is unusual in a politician.

4.) George will be independent. George is not beholden to any other official in the city—not the mayor and not the other councilmembers. He is funding his campaign without City Hall insider dollars. He can say “No” when developers come knocking and don’t want to pay their fair share of our fire and rescue needs. He can say “No” to lobbyists and special interests and “Yes” to the constituents of his district.

5.) George won’t cut the number of firefighters serving you. San Diego has one of the lowest numbers of firefighters per thousand population of any big city in the country, yet his opponent, Carl DeMaio, is proposing adding new stations without adding firefighters. How does DeMaio propose to do it? He would cut our 4-person crews to 3-person and spread those extra firefighters around to other stations, even though 4-person staffing is the nationally recognized standard for both the safety of our firefighters and their effectiveness in saving lives and property. Maybe if Carl had spent one of those brutal days in October with one of our crews, he would have a different perspective.

How many more fires will it take, how many more lives lost and millions of dollars in property damage before we elect a councilmember like George George? I say the time is now.

—FRANK DECLERCQ

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