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Lessons Learned From the West Fire & Paradise Fire: Roads Have an Impact on Fire Prevention and Safety

By George Barnett

February 2019 – As someone that has been evacuated four times in 20 years due to fire threat, that experience caused me to jot down “my thoughts” on fire preparedness in Alpine, and to try to draw some comparisons between what has been learned from the West Fire and what has been apparently learned so far from the Paradise Fire.

This is an important matter, and I hope the attached is informative….

Learning from the West Fire & the Paradise Fire

There seems to be no formal reports yet on both fires. But observations are being made by the media. What are the differences between these two fires according to the media?

Wiki records that residential development in wildland-urban interface areas such as Paradise and its vicinity are often located in state responsibility areas, where the State of California provides primary fire prevention and suppression. Paradise was served by a mix of its local fire department and the State’s CalFire.

Alpine is accountable for its fire prevention and firefighting through the Alpine Fire Protection District. Being an unincorporated township, Alpine has fallback support from the San Diego County Fire Authority. By agreement with all its neighboring sister agencies, Alpine Fire is in the process of annexing east Alpine so as to improve service in that rural area of the town.

The Paradise Fire Department webpage records, “By contracting with CAL FIRE the Town of Paradise (sic – double the population of Alpine) is able to staff two fire stations with three-person engine companies, and one station with a two-person engine company.

Alpine Fire Protection District strives to maintain four-person engine companies. The National Fire Protection Association suggests five-person engine companies in critically dangerous areas when weather conditions are severe. Alpine is also served by the County Fire Authority fire station in Harbison Canyon, the US Forest Service fire station on east Alpine Boulevard, Viejas Fire Department, and by the Sycuan Fire Department. And the eight-station Heartland Fire & Rescue Service serving El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove is an important back-up.

The Union Tribune reports, “A Los Angeles Times investigation found that Paradise ignored repeated warnings of the risk its residents faced, crafted no plan to evacuate the area all at once, entrusted public alerts to a system vulnerable to fire, and did not sound citywide orders to flee even as a hail of fire rained down… But interviews and records released by the city and county show the emergency warning system failed on many levels…. Most residents said they relied on word of mouth, emergency vehicles driving down their streets with loudspeakers, or the sight of flames.”

Among other systems, Alpine is served by the County’s “AlertSanDiego” for disaster notification. Based on 9-1-1 data, it has Voice over IP, cellular, and email connectivity. And more recently has as associated App allowing families and friends to network. As with the County Fire Agency, this notification system evolved after Supervisor Diane Jacob observed critical inter-agency communications difficulties during the 2003 Cedar Fire. Alpine Fire also participates in the Heartland Communications Agency which provides sophisticated dispatching of multiple response agencies for firefighting and medical emergency on an East County regional basis.

The Union-Tribune also reports of citizens in Paradise blocked into dead-end roads unable to escape in their vehicles due to traffic congestion on the main connecting roads. This observation applies to Alpine, a linear town flowing west and east with few lateral roadway connections.

The Alpine Sun reported, “President Neville Connell of the Greater Alpine Fire Safe Council revealed that research after Alpine’s West Fire on July 6 shows that roads have an impact on fire prevention and safety. The blaze destroyed or damaged 38 homes and 36 other buildings. There was very little damage to buildings on east-west roads in the fire area, but defending structures on roads that “spread out like fingers” was more difficult and those buildings were more prone to damage, Connell said. “It provided us with some very interesting conclusions in how (sic- residential) development should go forward in Alpine,” he said.

How has Alpine responded to that traffic circulation threat? After vigorous discussion at town hall meetings and workshops, this language was approved as a core Policy & Goal for the Alpine Community Plan. “Support the establishment of alternative means of ingress/egress to/from Pal o Verde Ranch and/or other existing neighborhoods.” Further at the last Community Plan workshop, Alpiners reviewed and commented on several proposed lateral roadways, especially across east Alpine. (see below chart)

Despite the Herculean efforts of dedicated, heroic people trying to save Paradise, a town twice the size of Alpine was destroyed. Paradise’s population h ad been basically flat the past quarter century. It would seem that available firefighting resources were limited compare d to those available to Alpine. It would seem that

Emergency alert systems were deficient. It would seem that road and traffic circulation limited emergency egress and ingress.

Alpine is half the size of Paradise, and is growing in population. Firefighting resources available to Alpine are greater, and expansion to the east of Al pine is under way. County emergency communications and East County joint agency dispatch systems are modern and becoming state of the art through wireless smart phone Apps. Still, Alpine took a big hit from the West Fire, and that seems attributable in part to the town’s limited roadway networks. But Alpine recognizes that, and its residents have approved Goals & Policies to improve that limitation a cross the town, and especially in the more rural eastern areas; and they are making plans to improve traffic networks and emergency ingress/egress.

Does that guarantee there will never be another wild fire? Of course not! But the town, its people and its firefighting and emergency service Agencies are planning to improve fire protection and firefighting as the town inevitably grows.

Alpine Fire Protection District Board of Directors Meeting – February 19, 2019

 

VIEW AGENDA HERE: 1 – ag02192019

Posted By:
Alicea Caccavo SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Alpine Fire Protection District, Finance Officer
1364 Tavern Road, Alpine CA 91901-3831

(619) 445-2635 x 301

www.alpinefire.org

 

1st Annual Alpine Firefighters Pancake Breakfast – February 23, 2019

1st Annual Pancake Breakfast! Presented by your Alpine Firefighters on February 23, 2019 from 8am to 11am at the Alpine Fire Station located at 1364 Tavern Rd! $5 Entry (Tickets sold at the door). All proceeds benefit the Alpine Fire Foundation. Pancakes! Sausage! Coffee! Juice! Fruit! Fore more info please contact Colby Ross, Alpine Firefighters Association at 619-328-7263 or email HERE

Alpine Fire Protection District Board of Directors Meeting – January 15, 2019

 

VIEW AGENDA HERE: 1.0 ag1_15_2019

Posted By:
Jenn James – Alpine Fire Protection District, Administrative Assistant
jjames@alpinefire.org
1364 Tavern Road, Alpine CA 91901-3831
(619) 445-2635
fax (619) 445-2634

www.alpinefire.org

Alpine Fire Protection District Board of Directors Meeting – December 18, 2018

 

VIEW AGENDA HERE: 1 – ag12182018-

Posted By:
Jenn James – Alpine Fire Protection District, Administrative Assistant
jjames@alpinefire.org
1364 Tavern Road, Alpine CA 91901-3831
(619) 445-2635
fax (619) 445-2634

www.alpinefire.org

Alpine Fire Protection District Board of Directors Meeting – November 20, 2018

 

VIEW AGENDA HERE: 1 – ag11202018

Posted By:
Jenn James – Alpine Fire Protection District, Administrative Assistant
jjames@alpinefire.org
1364 Tavern Road, Alpine CA 91901-3831
(619) 445-2635
fax (619) 445-2634

www.alpinefire.org

EMERGENCY INFORMATION: Wildfire Smoke and Face Masks for Protection in Dangerous Conditions

Surgical and dust masks WILL NOT protect you from the dangers of breathing Wildfire smoke… Choose a mask called a “particulate respirator”.

Wildfire smoke can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It can make you cough and wheeze, and can make it hard to breathe. If you have asthma or another lung disease, or heart disease, inhaling wildfire smoke can be especially harmful. If you cannot leave the smoky area, good ways to protect your lungs from wildfire smoke include staying indoors and reducing physical activity.

Wearing a special mask called a “particulate respirator” can also help protect your lungs from wildfire smoke  Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 provide some protection – they filter ‐ out fine particles but not hazardous gases (such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and acrolein). This type of mask can be found at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies and online. Your local health agency may also have these masks.

Choose an N95 or N100 mask that has two straps that go around your head. Don’t choose a one ‐ strap paper dust mask or a surgical mask that hooks around your ears – these don’t protect against the fine particles in smoke. Choose a size that fits over your nose and head and under your chin. It should seal tightly to your face. Please note that these masks don’t come in sizes that fit young children and will not seal well. They also will not seal well on people with beards.

Don’t use bandanas or towels (wet or try) or tissue held over the mouth and nose. These may relieve dryness but they won’t protect your lungs. Using a respirator mask can make it harder to breathe, which may make the existing medical conditions worse as it takes extra effort to breath through them and can make it uncomfortable to use them for very long.

Throw away your mask when breathing through it gets difficult, if it gets damaged or if the inside gets dirty. Use a new mask every day if you can. For more information, search for “wildfire smoke” on www.doh.wa.gov

 

Alpine Fire Protection District Promotes Brian Boggeln and Greg O’Gorman

 

ALPINE –October 26, 2018 –  The Alpine Fire Protection District (AFPD) recently announced the promotions of Brian Boggeln and Greg O’Gorman.  The promotions were effective on October 1, 2018.  Both firefighters participated in a badge pinning ceremony where they were ‘pinned’ by their wives and recognized for their accomplishments by the AFPD Board of Directors at the October 16, 2018 Board meeting.

Division Chief Boggeln is ‘pinned’ by his wife Dottie.

Brian Boggeln has been promoted to Division Chief.  As Division Chief he will oversee the Operations Division of the District.  He will oversee all aspects of the firefighters and when assigned to incidents will assume command of major incidents.  Division Chief Boggeln was hired by the AFPD in 1997 as a cadet firefighter.  He was promoted to Firefighter Paramedic in August 1999.  He was one of the first Paramedics when the District started its Paramedic program in 1999.  In September 2004 Boggeln was promoted to Fire Captain.  As Captain he had many duties, including overseeing training, Emergency Medical Services and technology.  He was very active in the Alpine Firefighters Association, having recently served as President.  Chief Boggeln and his wife Dottie reside in Alpine with their two sons.

Captain O’Gorman is ‘pinned’ by his wife Racheal

Greg O’Gorman was recently promoted to Fire Captain.  As a Fire Captain O’Gorman will lead the crew of four firefighters working on the fire engine.  O’Gorman was hired by the AFPD in October 2007 as a Firefighter Paramedic.  He has taken on many responsibilities in the District, including station supplies, station landscaping and maintenance on firefighter breathing apparatus.  He has also served the Alpine Firefighters Association and currently serves as Vice President.  Captain O’Gorman and his wife Racheal live in Alpine with their daughter and three sons.

Submitted By:
Bill F. Paskle, Fire Chief, Alpine Fire Protection District
1364 Tavern Road
Alpine, CA 91901
619-445-2635
bpaskle@alpinefire.org

 

 

 

Alpine Fire Protection District Board of Directors WAIVES FEES for West Fire Victims

ALPINE –October 26, 2018 – 

The Alpine Fire Protection District (AFPD) Board of Directors approved waiving plan check fees and permits for all victims of the West Fire.  At the October 16, 2018 meeting of the AFPD Board of Directors a resolution was passed with all Directors voting for approval.  The resolution allows all victims rebuilding destroyed or damaged structures to do so without having to pay plan check fees and permits.

“The Board of Directors wanted to help those effected by the West Fire” said Alpine Fire Chief Bill Paskle.  “The Board realizes that the right thing to do is help where we can.  These victims of the fire are our neighbors and friends and the Board wanted to ensure the rebuilding would be as painless and smooth as we can make it.”

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted on July 25, 2018 to waive all county imposed fees for victims of the West Fire.

The West Fire started on July 6, 2018 near the East bound off ramp of the West Willows exit. A total of 504 acres burned in the fire.  A total of 38 residences were destroyed and another 13 damaged.  11 other minor buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Bill F. Paskle, Fire Chief
Alpine Fire Protection District
1364 Tavern Road
Alpine, CA 91901

619-445-2635
bpaskle@alpinefire.org

 

Alpine Fire Protection District Board of Directors Meeting – October 16, 2018

 

VIEW AGENDA HERE: 1 – ag10162018

Posted By:
Jenn James – Alpine Fire Protection District, Administrative Assistant
jjames@alpinefire.org
1364 Tavern Road, Alpine CA 91901-3831
(619) 445-2635
fax (619) 445-2634

www.alpinefire.org