SAN DIEGO – A two-day visit by public safety officials from New South Wales, Australia has helped their region and the County of San Diego’s efforts to prepare for and suppress wind-driven wildfires. The officials came at the invitation of Fifth District Supervisor Bill Horn.

“Our backcountry and portions of New South Wales have similar climates and a history of major wildfires,” said Horn. “We realized we can learn a lot from each other. They’ve now seen firsthand the advances we’ve made preventing and dealing with fire emergencies.”

On August 17, Cal-Fire provided a fly-over tour of the 2007 Witch and Harris Fire Paths for Steve Whan, Minister for Emergency Services for New South Wales, his Chief of Staff Genevieve Slattery, and Assistant Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Keith Harrap.

After a lengthy roundtable discussion covering many shared challenges and successes combating wildfires in Australia and San Diego County, the Australians watched a fire-fighting helicopter demonstration put on by the Sheriff’s ASTREA team at Gillespie Field in El Cajon. Later they toured the Emergency Operations Center in Kearny Mesa and concluded their visit with a meeting over lunch where local fire officials and county staff briefed the Australians on the recently formed San Diego County Fire Authority and public outreach efforts.

“I think our visitors were impressed,” said Supervisor Horn. “Even though we employ similar fire-fighting techniques and strategies, we’ll continue to learn from the areas where we’re different by looking at best practices and how we can implement them.”

Minister Whan was impressed with the County’s Reverse 911 and evacuation planning procedures, as well as with the fire-safety standards the County imposes on new structures. The Australian visitors enthusiastically supported the County’s vegetation management procedures in the backcountry.

Contact: John Culea
619 531-4709, Cell: 619 548-1765
Fax: 619 685-2662