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Panel examines region's fire preparedness Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Sep 11 2010 12:00 PM

At an August forum panelists discussed the county's fire safety and how far it's come since the 2007 wildfires.

In the fall of 2008, Congressman Bob Filner and Chula Vista councilman Steve Castaneda presented the fire department with $400,000 in federal funding at the bottom of Chula Vista's Rice Canyon. The money was meant to help the department manage wildfire risk by clearing brush from properties in higher-risk areas. The project is a multimillion-dollar one, important for the city's preparation for the fire season.

According to Justin Gipson, deputy fire chief/marshal for the Chula Vista Fire Department, the fire department has required developers of new construction to build structures in accordance with the fire protection plan since before the '03 fires.

"Vegetation management is huge," he said.

Gipson said South Bay residents face the challenge of the wild land urban interface.

"No areas of the city are safe from wildfires ... with the exception of limited evacuation routes to the south, South Bay residents are at no greater risk than anyone one else," Luque said.

"We use the 'ready, set, go' concept," said San Diego Fire Rescue spokesman Maurice Luque. "It states that 'ready' preparations must be made in advance to protect your home from wildfire, they (residents) must also have an evacuation plan and gather key documents, medicines, in an emergency kit so once they are 'set,' they monitor evacuation orders and leave as soon as told 'go'."

"It's imperative that citizens take personal responsibility to know what to do to prepare for a wildfire emergency," San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Javier Mainar said.

"People need to make sure their property is lean, clean and green," Gipson said.

Gipson said the 2003 and 2007 wildfires were very similar, however, fire crews learned from the '03 fires by keeping most of their resources in the city rather than scattering them throughout the state.

He said Nixle, a free Web site that keeps the community updated on relevant matters, is a great way to keep informed.

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