Reorganized for Better Fire Protection
Last month my fellow Supervisors and I unanimously approved a plan to merge fire departments covering more than 1.5 million acres of unincorporated land in North and East San Diego County. Our action follows the catastrophic 2007 wildfires, which devastated large portions of the backcountry and cities and communities.
It was a historical moment for the people of San Diego County and strengthens our region’s fire protection system.
The first phase of the plan, set to begin this month, will merge volunteer fire companies not associated with a County Service Area (CSA), covering 942,000 acres, almost 60% of targeted zones.
The hybrid plan came as a result of the Board of Supervisors direction to County staff and incorporated my recommendations to establish a County Fire Warden, cover workers’ compensation and insurance costs for volunteers, assess vegetation in the unincorporated area, and secure grant funding for additional equipment.
I commend my fellow Supervisors, Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard, and County and fire officials for a job well done. The top priorities for this Board are public safety and protecting our budget. This plan speaks to both commitments.
There are two remaining phases with four CSA’s and rural fire departments in East County, set to merge with the newly boosted CSA by July of 2012.
The reorganization of our fire resources is not a silver bullet, but it will make a tremendous difference. We also need to work on the prevention side of the wildfire problem by clearing more brush and removing dead, dying, and diseased trees in areas where the backcountry meets our cities. I think this plan is real progress that our County residents can be proud of.
In this edition of the “Word,” you’ll find news of more fire engines for our backcountry volunteer departments, a room full of national awards for County departments, more affordable housing for Fallbrook, and my thoughts on the celebration of Independence Day.
These Big Engines Can!
Your County took another step forward in upgrading fire protection for the backcountry with delivery of eight fire engines to volunteer agencies, including Ranchita and Ocotillo Wells.
These are Type 2 engines, perfect for negotiating the rugged terrain in fire prone areas.
The new engines, bought by the County through its County Fire Enhancement Program, cost $3 million. When combined with our helicopters and air tankers, we’ve significantly increased our first-strike capacity.
Special thanks go to Ralph Steinhoff and Ken Miller, our great one-two team from the Department of Planning and Land Use for helping to get these engines.
And heartfelt thanks to the brave men and women who will use the engines for structural and wild land fire protection as well as medical aid calls and traffic accidents.
On the Right Trail
Good news for preserving open spaces in Valley Center. The County has been awarded a grant from the California Resource Agency of the California Department of Transportation’s Environmental and Mitigation Program for $350,000 to extend trail features from Woods Valley Road to Cole Grade road in Valley Center. This will add 2.5 miles to the trail.
A major challenge in San Diego County is providing affordable housing. I’m pleased to report that last month a major event happened that moves us closer to having a 44-apartment development for low-income families in North County, near Camp Pendleton.
Century Housing, one of California’s largest nonprofit affordable home lenders, provided a $2.9 million letter of credit to the San Diego County Department of Housing and Community Development. This will allow Springbrook Grove, a joint venture of Advanced Development & Investment, Inc. and Squier Properties to develop the apartment complex in Fallbrook at 435 Alturas Road.
Springbrook Grove Apartments will provide 26 two- and 18 three-bedroom apartment homes affordable to working families and seniors. Amenities will include tot lots, free internet access, Energy Star appliances, laundry, secured garage parking and elevators.
The County of San Diego’s financial participation in the nearly $18 million dollar project is $3.3 million.
It is hoped that families can begin moving into the apartments by the summer of 2010.
The Real Heroes
From left to right, Nick Macchlone, Director HHSA, Caroline Smith, Senior Policy Advisor, Michelle Heiling, Seth Heiling and Donna Hand, Assistant Deputy Director HHSA
Each year, our Health and Human Services Agency honors the wonderful foster parents who make up our network of people specializing in tender loving care. The picnic event is at Green Oak Ranch in Vista and this year approximately 250 people were there to interact with others involved in the foster parent program in North County.
Several people received special honors, including “Starfish Awards.” Among them are Seth and Michelle Heilig of Oceanside who have been foster parents for more than two years. They have worked with children ranging in ages from infancy to adolescents. Children in their home come with a variety of challenges, including ADHD, developmental delays and attachment disorders.
I appreciate Seth and Michelle for their consistent care to ensure that all the children who are placed in their home receive medical and developmental evaluations in order to begin necessary treatment.
The Heilig’s are typical of our many foster parents in that they are always available to work with different providers, including therapists, psychiatrist and speech/language therapists, who are there to assist them in providing treatment for the children in their care. They are patient and consistent with the children, providing structure, routine, as well as appropriate boundary setting for the children. No matter the challenge, the Heilig’s never give up on the children placed in their home. They offer an exceptional foster family home that is a haven of safety and love, and we are fortunate to be working with them.
And the Winner is . . .
The County of San Diego’s commitment to excellence is reflected in several awards that have come our way. They include the following:
The County initiatives honored represent each of our five major branches: Community Services; Finance & General Government; Health & Human Services; Land Use & Environment; and Public Safety. (The next highest award winner was Los Angeles County, which earned 23 commendations.)
Uncle Sam’s Birthday
232 years. In the hour glass of time, 232 years are only a few grains of sand. Yet the grit of those grains, represent who we are as a nation and why I have faith in the future of the United States of America.
Watching the news on TV, listening on radio, or reading the newspapers, you might think that America has already been counted out. K.O.; ring the bell.
Some of that perception is an image created by a news media obsessed with all things negative, a desire to shape or rewrite society in their own view, and the inability to understand the fundamentals of life and history’s lessons. That’s not to say we can’t do things better, but on this, the 232nd birthday of America consider the following:
Despite outsourcing and all of the problems associated with oil, America still has the largest economy in the world, followed by China, Japan, Indian, and Germany. (Noteworthy is that in 1900, after only 124 years, the U.S. had nearly 24% of the world’s economic production, followed by Britain at 18%, Russia with nearly 9% and France about 7%.)
America today has the most profitable companies in the world, the strongest military and we have four of the six busiest airports in the world. Our nation ranks as the second most educated, we have more than twice the number of university students of the next country (Japan). While we have seen many American industries shrink, U.S. business leaders have diversified in other areas and per capita, we are the 6th richest nation in the world.
The United States remains a most generous nation, providing for her own and coming to the aid of countries in need and our agriculture output feeds much of the world.
We have eight of the top ten most valuable brand names, are second only to France in visitors each year and despite that pot hole you wish would be filled, we have roads and highways that compared to most places are the envy of the world.
July 16, 2008 marked the 70th anniversary of the dedication of the County Administration Center. In 1935, the County of San Diego and the City of San Diego applied to the federal government through the Work Progress Administration and received funding for the project. When completed, the building was called San Diego’s first skyscraper complete with a ten-story tower.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came for the ceremonies; a fitting VIP since the federal government funded 80% of the $1 million start-up funds. The remainder of the $500,000 cost was split evenly by the County and City.
The building was shared; County offices were on the north side and the City offices on the south side. In 1964, the City relocated to the Community Concourse on C Street.
County Administration Center 1600 Pacific Highway San Diego, CA 92101 tel: (619) 531-5555 fax: (619) 685-2662