Sanders, chief: San Diego better prepared for wildfires

Sanders, chief: San Diego better prepared for wildfires

22 October 2009

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USA — San Diego officials gathered in Rancho Bernardo Thursday to commemorate the second anniversary of the start of the devastating Witch Creek fire.

“Today we pause to mark the second anniversary of that terrible event and to remember the incredible bravery of our firefighters and police officers and other emergency responders,” Mayor Jerry Sanders said.

The mayor said the city is better prepared for wildfires than it was in 2007, having cleared hundreds of acres of brush, acquired new equipment and improved coordination with other agencies.

“We all know the day will come once again that we confront the specter of another wildfire bearing down on San Diego,” Sanders said. “But, today as we pause to remember those dark days, I can report with confidence that we are better prepared than ever to confront that challenge.”

Sanders was joined at the Rancho Bernardo-Glassman Recreation Center by Javier Mainar, the newly appointed chief of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, who coordinated the fight against the 2007 wildfires for the city.

Mainar concurred that the department has taken to heart lessons learned from the wildfires two years ago and is now better equipped to deal with a similar disaster.

“While I am proud of the job the men and women of our Fire-Rescue Department did that day, or those days I should say, I am here to tell you we are better prepared, as the mayor suggested, than we have ever been,” Mainar said.

Mainar said that since the 2007 wildfires the department has replaced aging fire engines, expanded its reserve fleet and established new methods to battle spot fires.

The Witch Creek fire began in the early morning hours on Oct. 21, 2007, near Santa Ysabel and later merged with the Guejito Fire. Fanned by Santa Ana winds, the fires scorched nearly 200,000 acres, destroyed 1,100 homes, injured 40 firefighters and killed a couple who were overtaken by flames at their home.

More than 350 homes were destroyed in Rancho Bernardo alone. Most of those homes have since been rebuilt, Sanders said.

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