For the second time in 4-years San Diego County experienced the wrath of Mother Nature. Santa Ana winds whipped wildfires into firestorms across the county and once again demonstrated that both the county and city are still woefully unprepared to deal with such contingencies as they arise.
For starters the city of San Diego still lacks sufficient fire protection resources that a city of this size needs. As the VOSD reported on Thursday, “San Diego has only one firefighter per 1,466 residents, while Phoenix (997 residents per fire fighter), Dallas (702) and San Francisco (421) employ more favorable ratios.”[Link] Events like the fires this week and the Cedar Fire back 2003 highlight the serious shortcomings in fire protection resources in here in the city. At the county level, the fire protection resources are even in worse condition. The county is still, the largest county in the state without its own fire department. It has been like this since 1974 when the county decided to stop funding for fire services.[Link] While incremental steps have been taken by the county, you would think that the destruction brought on by the Cedar Fire, and the continued development in the back county motivated both the supervisors and city council to act with a greater sense on urgency.
It also appears that the much vaunted “Reserve 911” system has some serious problems. For one it doesn’t include cell phone numbers. A case in point is a co-worker, I know who lives in RB. She is part of the growing number of people who have only a cell phone as their telephone. According to this person, her neighbor who has a standard telephone at home, received a reverse 911 call, but my co-worker did not receive a reverse 911 call. In addition, I heard that the reserve 911 system didn’t make any calls in Spanish; the calls were only made in English. For a county were 1 in 4 residents speak Spanish as their primary language at home, a greater emphasis needs to be made to communicate with non-English speaking residents during emergencies.