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County negotiates help for El Nino flooding


Last updated 1/7/2016 at Noon

The County of San Diego already has an agreement with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to provide fire protection and emergency medical services to certain parts of the county. County and CalFire staff will be working on an agreement for deployment of CalFire personnel and other resources for El Nino flooding and other non-fire emergencies.

A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote Dec. 15 directed the county's chief administrative officer to work with CalFire to establish an agreement while authorizing the director of the county's Department of Emergency Services to execute an assistance-by-hire agreement to utilize CalFire resources during non-fire emergencies.

"This action is going to authorize the county to enter into an agreement with CalFire," said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. "We need to get those agreements done expeditiously."

Jacob's district includes Ramona, which experienced flooding as a result of the July 2015 rainfall. On a statewide basis, the 1997-98 El Nino storms caused more than $800 million in economic losses. That figure was derived from an October 2015 National University System Institute for Policy Research report, and the report also states that in San Diego County more than 50,000 residents and nearly 5,000 businesses are within a 100-year flood plain and thus susceptible to flooding during concentrated rainfall.

"It's critical that we do all we can to protect people and property," Jacob said.

"This winter is predicted to be one of the wettest on record in Southern California," said Supervisor Bill Horn. "If there is an emergency situation we need all hands on deck."

CalFire operates four inmate fire camps in San Diego

County: Rainbow Conservation Camp in Rainbow, Puerta La Cruz in Warner Springs, La Cima in Julian, and McCain Valley in Boulevard. The inmate fire crews participate in brush management as well as wildfire responses. The inmate work crews already have sandbag machines at each camp to allow for sandbags to be deployed in the event of flooding.

"CalFire once again has graciously stepped up and is ready to allow the county to use inmate crews to set up sandbag stations and prepare for large-scale flooding events," Horn said.

The assistance-by-hire agreement would allow the county to request assistance directly from CalFire's San Diego unit rather than making a request through the state Office of Emergency Services and would allow the immediate activation of inmate fire crews to fill sandbags for an actual or potential flooding emergency. The sandbags would then be distributed to local residents and businesses. The assistance-by-hire agreement would also allow the county to utilize CalFire resources in addition to the inmate crews.


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