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
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
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:
- For the fourth straight year, our County earned the most
awards from the National Association of Counties; 39 Achievement
Awards presented to county programs that are innovative, successful,
and save time and money. The programs honored include
record-keeping, fire relief, creek restoration, and gardens.
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.)
- Another award went to our Office of Emergency Services (OES)
which received the San Diego Taxpayers Association’s Golden Watchdog
Award. It was presented for OES’ AlertSanDiego, the County’s mass
notification system that was instrumental in evacuating more than a
half million residents during the October 2007 wildfires by issuing
automated phone messages.
- The County also received an
Operational Excellence Award for its Automatic Local Evaluation in
Real-Time (ALERT) program. The award, presented by the National
Hydrologic Warning Council recognizes Public Works’ management of
the storm warning system. We have more than 100 rain and stream
gauges placed throughout the County.