San Diego Grand jury issues scathing report about fire preparedness

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The Grand Jury of San Diego County investigated the response to the Witch Creek and Guejito fires of last fall that burned 368,340 acres, destroyed 2,653 structures, and claimed the lives of 10 citizens . They just issued their report and it pulls no punches.

They began by pointing out the recommendations that were not implemented within the city of San Diego after the Cedar fire of 2003 which burned 376,237 acres, destroyed 3,241 structures, and killed 15 citizens and 1 firefighter:

  • Fund staffing and resources needed for long duration incidents.
  • Remove open cab apparatus from service–partially completed.
  • Fund develop, and train personnel to function at all Unit Leader positions in the Logistics Section.
  • Establish a fleet of three fire-rescue helicopters.

Then they identified other problem areas within the city of San Diego, some of which include:

  • Serious gaps in fire protection coverage.
  • No comprehensive plan to improve coverage.
  • The fire department is not involved in the City planning process.

Issues within the county of San Diego include the fact that the budget for fire protection for the county is $8.5 million annually, as opposed to neighboring Orange County which spends $260 million and Los Angeles County that spends $860 million. Orange county has about the same population as San Diego county, but is only 18% of the size geographically as San Diego county.

Some of the recommendations:

  • The city should increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (bed tax in hotels, motels) in order to improve fire protection levels, including additional stations, engines, firefighters, training, and equipment. So…. they want tourists to pay for adequate fire protection, rather than the property owners who would benefit.
  • Consolidation of County Fire Agencies.
  • Increasing county funding for fire protection.
  • Staff 28 rural fire stations 24/7.
  • Create the position of San Diego County Fire Commander.

Call me a cynic, but I wonder if this report will just gather dust on the shelf like the others.

Arizona: more about the Frye Mesa fire

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On May 22 we wrote about the Frye Mesa fire, the result of an escaped prescribed fire on the Coronado National Forest south of Safford, Arizona that eventually burned 3,100 unplanned acres. Today an editorial in the Eastern Arizona Courier blasted the US Forest Service for lighting the prescribed fire on a day when the National Weather Service had issued a red flag warning for Graham County.

Bill Turner of the NWS was quoted as saying:

“We strongly discouraged them from starting it. We had red-flag criteria everywhere.”

The NWS reported that a few hours after the fire escaped, the temperature was 102 degrees, the RH was 11%, and the wind speed was 22 mph.


Photo, May 21, by David Peters, BLM

Montana: two firefighters struck by lightning

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Two firefighters working on a prescribed fire on the Flathead National Forest were struck by lightning Thursday. They were on on the Tally Lake Ranger District when lighting struck some trees near where they were working. The firefighters, a 25-year old woman and a 29-year old man are members of a Hot Shot crew. Both were both transported to hospitals, the woman by helicopter and the man by ambulance. They are listed in stable condition.

Thanks to Dick M. for the tip.

BLM firefighters honored as heroes

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This involves the crash of single engine air tanker 458 on July 17, 2007.

Associated Press – May 28, 2008 7:44 PM ET

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Five federal firefighters from Nevada and four from Montana have been recognized as heroes for their courageous rescue of a pilot whose air tanker crashed in the path of a quickly advancing wildfire south of Winnemucca last summer.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne recently presented them with the department’s prestigious valor award in recognition of the bravery and decisive action taken by the members of the Bureau of Land Management fire crew members based in Winnemucca and Lewiston, Mont.

The July 17 rescue occurred after a large lightning storm ignited the 8,000-acre Barrel Springs Fire.

The pilot of a single engine air tanker crashed while trying to make a strategic retardant drop so the crews cleared a buffer and scrambled to slow the fire’s advance toward the plane. They grabbed the disoriented pilot, removed him from the crash site and helped him remove his fuel-soaked clothes.

As they drove away, the flames consumed the plane.

Kempthorne presented the awards at a ceremony in Washington on May 13 to Mike Hendrickson, Lester McDonald, Mike Sperry, Scott Brandt, Mike McMaster and Andrew Snyder of Nevada, and Andrew Rishavy, Andrea Robinson, Scott Meneely and Steven Spellberg of Montana.

Cabela's employee discount for firefighters

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Cabela’s is offering an employee’s discount to firefighters and law enforcement officers June 2-4. It is only valid in their stores, not catalog or Internet orders. Here is a link to a 4.7 MB flyer. More details from their web site:

Hometown Heroes Sales Event
Cabela’s Retail is hosting an Appreciation Day for all Emergency Response team members, Firefighters, Law Enforcement, Military and Veterans. Stop in and receive Employee Discount with valid identification. Cabela’s appreciates all that you do! Certain restrictions do apply* Contact Store Event Coordinator for more information.

*During regular store hours, must show valid identification, Exclusions include but are not limited to Boats, Firearms, Ammunition, ATV’s, Trailers, Gift Cards, Gift Certificates, Licenses and certain other items. Discount can not be combined with any other offer and is on regular priced merchandise only.

Rumor has it that the employee discount varies from 0-25%, depending on the item.