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Thursday, May 29, 2008 | The Grand Jury has again warned us that San Diego is woefully unprepared for wild fires.

I’d like to propose an old concept from the Navy. Instead of building massive specialized fire-fighting forces, we should learn to fight fires as citizen volunteers.

In the Navy, if the ship catches fire every sailor on board must be prepared to man the hoses and put it out. While there are dedicated teams to lead the effort, the manpower comes from everyone.

We cannot afford to be complacent and expect others to save us. There’s little reason why we cannot expand current fire fighting education at the community colleges to provide consistent and practical fire fighting training to every able bodied citizen. It could be part of your driver’s licence renewal to attend a week-long program where you learn the basics. Then, when a big fire comes, the county will call up the trained volunteers to man the lines.

At the same trainings, advanced first aid can be offered so that we are also prepared to treat injuries in emergencies.

This doesn’t just help address our emergency fire-fighting needs, it also would be a practical way to respond to terrorist attacks of the future. While we cannot prevent many of these attacks, we can be ready to mitigate the damage by helping the wounded and limiting the consequent fires.

This wouldn’t replace existing fire-fighting and life-saving resources, but augment them in the event of large scale emergencies. It would also help bring our community together by exposing us all to the common challenges we all face and giving us the skills to take them on.

This is a long-term proposal, but there is no reason we couldn’t begin now. There are plenty of San Diegans who would like to volunteer in the event of fires, but don’t have the skills. Let’s give them the skills so that we don’t have to stand by helpless and watch our region burn.

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