Ok, maybe the title is overly dramatic, but this article speaks volumes about what went wrong in San Diego County and why:
A snippet follows, but please go to the site and read the whole article. Emphasis is mine.
He won’t say ‘I told you so . . .’
Former San Diego fire Chief Jeff Bowman, who repeatedly warned that his city wasn’t prepared to handle major fires…..”
“…..When he isn’t growing Malbec and Cabernet Franc grapes on the 1-acre vineyard in front of his retreat, Bowman works as a consultant to fire departments and municipalities. With 16 years as chief in Anaheim and four in San Diego before quitting over staffing and resource issues, he’s got strong opinions on San Diego’s long, proud culture of skimping on services to keep taxes low.
“…..There’s no way to adequately staff for fires of this magnitude, Bowman says, and he doesn’t want to turn so much scorched earth and misery into an I-told-you-so speech. But ……he can’t help but go over some of the facts.
“Although the city of San Diego has a fire department, the county doesn’t, leaving many suburban and rural areas to rely on volunteer departments. The city has but one firefighting helicopter and just 975 firefighters for 330 square miles and 1.3 million residents.
Compare that, he says, with San Francisco, which has 1,600 firefighters for 60 square miles and 850,000 people.
“San Diego practices the biggest don’t-tax-me campaign I’ve seen,” says Bowman, a proud, lifelong Republican. Fine, he says, don’t raise taxes. But reevaluate how money is spent and redistribute it to public safety.
A number of San Diego suburbs have the same resource problems, he says, and are more inclined to invest in evacuation technology than fire prevention and suppression.
“It’s a lot cheaper,” he says. “I’ve had the hardest time with the culture of ‘We can do more with less.’ ”
“………. I can’t help but notice the number of houses foolishly built on the edge of dense vegetation.
As UC San Diego professor Steve Erie puts it:
“It’s paradise plundered,” which happens to be the title of a book he’s finishing “about how developers run this town.”
“Erie says that “developers own most of the city councils. In Poway, in Escondido, what they do is put homeowners in harm’s way. They’re able to control zoning processes, and they’re frequently behind initiatives that say no new taxes, no new fire services. It’s insanity.”
“…… Bowman points out a fire station under construction. He’s glad it’s being built, but it should have gone up years ago, he says, when houses were first built in this formerly rural area filled with combustible vegetation……”