Village News Reporter
The County of San Diego has a roadside vegetation management program intended to increase wildfire preparedness in unincorporated San Diego County. A 4-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote Nov. 7, with one vacant seat, authorized acceptance of a Forest Service Community Wildfire Defense Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.
The grant is for $3,409,443. The county supervisors authorized acceptance of that grant and authorized the director of the county’s Department of Purchasing and Contracting to amend current and future vegetation management service contracts to reflect the additional funding and the requirements of the grant.
The grant agreement covers the period from November 2023 through January 2028, and the supervisors’ action also appropriated $500,000 into the San Diego County Fire Protection District 2023-24 budget for work to be performed this fiscal year.
In April 2022, the county supervisors authorized the San Diego County Fire Protection District to implement the Roadside Vegetation Management for Evacuation Preparedness Program.
The county maintains nearly 2,000 miles of roadway, and nearly 80% of that roadway is in areas designated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as high or very high fire hazard severity zones.
The San Diego County Fire Protection District works with the county's Department of Public Works (DPW) to prioritize maintenance along county-maintained roadways which are considered critical evacuation corridors.
DPW performs vegetation management to a width of 20 feet from the roadway if that off-roadway area is part of the public right-of-way, and if the county has less than 20 feet of right-of-way DPW coordinates with property owners to pursue additional vegetation management.
The San Diego County Fire Protection District was the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority in June 2018 when the county supervisors authorized the county fire department to apply for grant funding. That authority expired on June 30, 2023, but the July 18 Board of Supervisors meeting renewed the SDCFPD authority to apply for grants for another ten years through June 30, 2033.
On Aug. 29, the Board of Supervisors authorized the acceptance of a $1,500,000 Community Project Funds Grant from the United States Forest Service, authorized the director of the Department of Purchasing and Contracting to issue solicitations for vegetation management services, and appropriated $700,000 into the Fiscal Year 2023-24 SDCFPD budget (the other $800,000 will be part of the 2024-25 budget).
The funding will expand the vegetation management program by an additional 200 lane miles which will protect nearly 20 communities, 1,500 homes, and 4,200 people. The funding prior to the U.S. Forest Service grant allowed for approximately 200 lane miles of critical evacuation corridors to be treated with the expanded vegetation management annually.
The USFS is part of the United States Department of Agriculture, and county staff also worked with USFS staff on a Forest Service Community Wildfire Defense Grant award. The application was submitted on Oct. 7, 2022. On Sept. 21, 2023, the SDCFPD was notified of the additional $3,409,443 grant.
The county expects the additional funding to allow roadside vegetation management for an additional 550 additional lane miles through Jan. 2, 2028. The total project now includes 112 road segments totaling approximately 1,017 lane miles of county-maintained roadway throughout northern and eastern San Diego County.
The segments include 7.6 lane miles of DeLuz Murrieta Road between Kings Circle and DeLuz Road, 12.56 miles of DeLuz Road from DeLuz Murrieta Road to West Mission Road, 5.94 miles of Sandia Creek Road from Sandia Creek Drive to DeLuz Road, 2.44 miles of Stage Coach Lane between Vista del Lago Drive and East Alvarado Street, 10.3 miles of Mission Road from West Alvarado Street to Old Highway 395, and 13.0 miles of South Mission Road from West Alvarado Street to State Route 76.
More segments to be managed are the one mile of Ammunition Road between Sparrow Road and South Mission Road, 5.7 miles of Stage Coach Lane from East Alvarado Street to South Mission Road, 8.0 miles of Reche Road from Stage Coach Lane to Old Highway 395, and 10.8 miles of Olive Hill Road from South Mission Road to Highway 76.
Also included are 75 lane miles of southbound Interstate 15 between Rainbow Valley Boulevard and Nutmeg Terrace in Deer Springs (which is not directly accessible from the freeway), 10.96 miles of Old Highway 395 from Rainbow Canyon Road to Mountain Meadow Road in Deer Springs, and 6.0 miles of Rainbow Valley Boulevard from Old Highway 395 to the county line.
More segments are 8.2 miles of Rice Canyon Road between Rainbow Valley Boulevard and Pala Mesa Heights Drive, 9.5 miles of Rainbow Heights Road from Rice Canyon Road to the end of the county-maintained road, and 4.52 miles of Rainbow Crest Road between Rainbow Heights Road and Mordigan Lane, 7.2 miles of Gird Road from Reche Road to Highway 76, 20.0 lane miles of Highway 76 from Singh Way in Oceanside to Horse Ranch Creek Road.
The grant has a 25% match requirement, and the SDCFPD general fund will provide that match amount. The contractors will perform vegetation management along 440 lane miles of roads in the first year with three years of subsequent maintenance.
The other 110 lane miles will be treated using a long-term fire retardant product, which will reduce the risk of a roadside fire starting and protect those evacuation corridors. The grant will also allow the county fire department to perform defensible space inspections on more than 90 locations which have been identified as temporary refuge areas, which are pre-identified locations where evacuees can immediately take refuge for temporary shelter and short-term relief if emergency egress to a safe place is compromised.