Due to the $5,000 valuation threshold for which donations to the County of San Diego must be approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the $60,000 donation the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County offered to the San Diego County Fire Protection District went before the county supervisors Jan. 23. The vote was 5-0 in favor.
The money will fund the purchase of long-term fire retardant for high fire risk areas. In addition to accepting the donation, the motion authorized Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas to sign a letter of appreciation to the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County on behalf of the Board of Supervisors and the County of San Diego and found the actions categorically exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review.
Approximately 79% of the unincorporated San Diego County land mass is designated as a High Fire Hazard Severity Zone or a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. The county fire department will apply preventative treatment of vegetation with the long-term fire retardant, which will reduce the likelihood of entrapment, loss of life, and loss of property from fire.
The San Diego County Fire Protection District will select high fire risk areas based on prior fire history and where evacuation routes have been identified in a Community Wildfire Protection Plan developed by the local Fire Safe Council chapters. In addition to reducing the risk of a roadside fire becoming a major wildfire, the long-term fire retardant will help protect evacuation corridors in the event emergency response is needed.
Long-term fire retardants contain retardant salts which alter the way fire burns, which decreases fire intensity and slows the advance of a fire. Retardant is often applied from fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters during the initial and extended attack of wildfires.
The county fire department evaluated the use of ground-applied retardant to reduce the number and severity of roadside wildfires and found the application of that fire retardant to be beneficial on critical roadways where traditional vegetation management may not be feasible due to sensitive habitats, on roadways experiencing increased roadside fire starts, and around critical community infrastructure.
Although the donation itself is exempt from CEQA review, the San Diego County Fire Protection District will conduct environmental review prior to the ground application of retardant on any road segments.