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Community Update - North County Fire continues to enhance fire protection


Last updated 4/24/2008 at Noon

Almost six months have transpired since the fire siege of October 2007 struck the communities of Fallbrook, Rainbow, Bonsall and the rest of San Diego County.

October 22, 2007, and the weeks and months that have followed have been an extraordinary time for the North County Fire Protection District and the residents in the communities that we serve.

We feel extraordinarily blessed that our communities weathered the fire siege without any fatalities or significant injuries. Our hearts break when we see the losses that our friends and neighbors suffered as a result of the fire.

We are renewed in our commitment to learn from this experience and apply the lessons learned to make our community even more fire safe in the future.

First among the lessons learned is that fire prevention works.

Although there were certainly exceptions, in general homes built since 2001 using fire resistive construction techniques and homes that had excellent clearance from flammable materials survived the firestorm.

Countywide, 13 percent of the homes within the fire perimeters were lost. However, only three percent of those built since 2001 and only two percent of those built since 2003 were destroyed. Our experience was similar here in Fallbrook.

All of us must continue our commitment to making our own properties as fire safe as we possibly can. Cover your attic vents with screens, box your eaves, remove flammable materials from the area next to your home and keep the weeds and brush on your property mowed.

There is nothing that we can do that is more important or effective than these basic fire prevention activities.

Second, we directly experienced the results of the lack of attention to fire service in San Diego County.

The Rice Fire was the fourth significant fire in the fire siege in San Diego County and the 16th fire overall in Southern California. All other regional resources were committed to other fires and this department fought the fire alone for the first eight to 12 hours.

Every piece of fire equipment that we own was staffed and working, fighting the fire, but we clearly could have used more help.

Although we have excellent fire protection here in our fire district, the welfare of the fire service in the rest of San Diego County has a direct impact on us here in Fallbrook. Therefore, the Board of Directors and staff of the Fire District are actively participating in the many task forces and committees that are looking at ways to enhance fire protection throughout San Diego County.

When faced with fires of the magnitude that we experienced last fall, none of us can stand alone. A stronger San Diego County fire service will have more resources to bring to bear and be better able to send help when we need it.

Our continued support of regional fire service improvements will be essential to making the necessary changes.

Finally, it is truly a rare thing to evacuate a community of our size.

While we routinely evacuate individual streets or the occasional subdivision, not many communities in this country have the experience of evacuating the entire town. We are proud of the way that Fallbrook conducted itself during the evacuation.

At the same time, we know that there is much to be done to improve both the evacuation process and, just as importantly, the process of returning people to their homes. We are actively working with the Sheriff’s Department to improve our procedures so that we can do an even better job next time.

As we work to get better, we ask that you stop and think about the lessons that you learned in the evacuation. Fine tune and improve your own evacuation plan and, together, we will both do better next time.

In the face of a firestorm that literally threatened the whole community (remember that the wind was forecast to blow for another 36 hours), Fallbrook came together as a community and withstood the onslaught.

Yes, our hearts go out to everyone who experienced the loss of their homes and other property, but we are also very grateful that no one died and very few were injured.

We ask that everyone join us in the ongoing effort to make Fallbrook, Bonsall and Rainbow fire safe. Clear the brush and weeds around your property, support the efforts to improve the fire service in San Diego County and think about lessons learned from the evacuation.

There will be more fires in Fallbrook and our combined efforts will be required to improve our response in the future.


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