Last week, County Supervisor Ron Roberts announced a plan that would bring three new fancy firefighting aircraft to San Diego for the region’s hottest months.
Roberts’ plan involves leasing two massive Superscooper aircraft to drop water on fires during the months of September to November. A third supervisory plane would remain in the county for an additional 40 days.
But CalFire statistics for the last seven years show that San Diego’s fires usually don’t fit handily into a man-made schedule. Since 2000, almost 75 percent of the region’s large wildfires have flared up either before September or after November.
In 2000, there were nine fires larger than 10 acres in size. None of those fell between September and November.
The two largest wildfires in that period occurred in October 2003 and October 2007, both within the timeframe the planes would be here.
Given the plan’s $3 million price tag, debate is raging in San Diego’s fire protection and political circles as to whether the plan is as cost-effective as it could be, considering that it will only protect the county for three months of the year.
Criticism is also being leveled at Roberts for essentially side-stepping the various processes in place at a county level to decide which fire resources the region most needs and how best to spend taxpayer money on fire protection.
I will be taking a closer, more comprehensive look at that issue in a story I am currently working on.