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Ok, since I put up this post last week, I’ve been contacted by a couple of people in the local firefighting community who think what I wrote was unfair.
First a re-cap: I cited CalFire statistics showing that 75 percent of the large fires in San Diego in the last seven years flared up outside of the three months during which the county would lease firefighting planes under a proposal being pushed by County Supervisor Ron Roberts.
The same statistic was cited by County Supervisor Dianne Jacob at last week’s meeting of the San Diego Regional Fire Protection Committee.
Well, late last week, Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire Department called with some perspective.
Luque said he thought my post, and Jacob’s comments, were unfair.
He said what is more important to look at is not the overall number of fires that flared up but the amount of damage that has been caused by the different fires.
If one looks at the total acreage burned and structures destroyed in the county since 2000, Luque argued, one sees that the vast majority of fire damage occurred during the two major firestorms that hit the county in that time. Both of those firestorms, Luque pointed out, happened in October, i.e. within the lease period Roberts is proposing.
If you add up the damage caused in the 75 percent of fires that occurred outside of the September to November lease period proposed, Luque said, the total doesn’t come close to the damage caused in those two wildfire events.
It’s a fair point.
Mike Lavis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said peak fire danger season is, indeed, during the three months of September, October and November. But Lavis also said that Santa Ana wind conditions are not exclusive to those months.
Indeed, Lavis said San Diego saw a fairly mild Santa Ana wind event last month, when the hot desert winds stoked the county to record-high temperatures.
But Luque’s point is duly noted: The region’s biggest wildfires by far in recent history have indeed occurred during the time frame proposed for leasing the firefighting planes under Roberts’ plan.