The Morning Report
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Monday, Sept. 14, 2009 | As one of the thousands of firefighters who supported SDG&E’s Emergency Power Shut-Off Plan, I was disappointed that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) failed to see the obvious benefits of the plan.

The CPUC’s decision puts San Diego County back to square one. The fundamental problem is and always has been that San Diego, as a region, is woefully underfunded for fire protection.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob acknowledged this problem by stating that the lack of a countywide firefighting agency was “disgraceful.” She was referring to the findings in an updated report on fire protection recently released by the National University Research and Policy Institute. The report found that San Diego lags far behind Orange and Los Angeles counties in funding firefighting efforts.

Moving forward, we must find a way to establish a stable funding source for regional fire protection.

Virtually every firefighting organization in San Diego supported SDG&E’s plan because we all know the best way to fight a fire is to stop one before it starts. Further, there is broad agreement that SDG&E’s Community Fire Safety Program, which involved replacing hundreds of wood utility poles with steel ones and has stepped up tree-trimming and brush-clearing, is an important step in the right direction.

I urge all stakeholders in this matter to treat the CPUC decision not as an end of the discussion but rather a starting point for a new conversation on how we can work together to make our region safer from devastating wildfires.

Frank De Clercq is the President of the San Diego City Firefighters Local 145

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