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After reading this story in The San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday, I decided to call retired San Diego Fire Chief Jeff Bowman, to get his take on County Supervisor Ron Roberts’ plan to bring three fixed-wing firefighting aircraft known as “superscoopers” to the region during this year’s fire season.

Bowman’s been vigorous in his criticism of the San Diego Fire Department and the city of San Diego for the last couple of years. He’s always a good guy to talk to for some frank views on changes in the region’s fire protection plans.

Bowman was less caustic than usual when I talked to him yesterday. He said he supports any move that will improve the region’s fire defenses.

“Any positive step we make is a good one,” he told me.

But Bowman said the roughly $3 million Roberts is planning to spend on leasing the three planes could possibly be better spent elsewhere. Leasing these planes would not be his first priority for San Diego, Bowman said.

The first thing the city needs to do is to buy 50 fire engines that could serve in a “surge” capacity year-round, Bowman said. The $3 million proposed for the aircraft could have gone some way toward providing the county with that option, Bowman said.

Bowman said one of his concerns about Roberts’ plan is that it wouldn’t boost the city’s fire protection year-round.

“If you look at the history of San Diego, we’ve had some significant wildfire events in February. What happens then?” Bowman said.

WILL CARLESS

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