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Wildfire education and outreach: Helping the San Diego community

The Issue

Wildfires occur frequently in San Diego County. The potential for losses has grown over the last few decades due to an increasing wildland-urban interface -- areas where residents live in the vicinity or in the midst of wildland vegetation. Following the 2003 firestorms, there was an onslaught of new building codes, brush management ordinances and educational programs adopted and developed by many fire authorities, cities and county departments. The intention was to assist wildfire victims and encourage others to prepare themselves and their properties for the next wildfire incident. Unfortunately, residents were often confused due to conflicting information and difficulties with interpreting new codes and ordinances.

What Has ANR Done?

To provide residents with clearer information, UC Cooperative Extension in San Diego County coordinated and implemented a regional wildfire education and outreach program named Wildfire Zone. The primary components to the program are a comprehensive Web site, www.wildfirezone.org, and a series of 12 wildfire information tip cards. The Web site features educational information about wildfire risks and what to do before, during and after a fire. To assist with personal and community planning, users can type in their local zip code to receive a variety of fire, building code, Fire Safe Council and other local contact information. Links to other useful UC tools and publications on wildfire are also posted. The 12-topic information cards coordinate with the Web site and offer brief explanations of the fire hazards or risks along with tips on how to reduce them. Other programming includes training workshops targeted towards the public, Fire Safe Council and Master Gardener volunteers, or industry and fire personnel. To develop and maintain this program, Cooperative Extension collaborates with representatives from municipal and county departments, Cooperative Extension programming throughout the western states, government agencies, fire authorities and community organizations. The ultimate goal for all stakeholders is to provide easy access to information that residents can use to reduce loss to life, property, business and natural resources from wildfires.

The Payoff

San Diegans better prepared to deal with wildfires

Due to climate, topography and vegetation, San Diegans occasionally face wildfires, but much can be done to prepare. The Wildfire Zone program provides educational resources to assist and encourage residents to take action and reduce the fire hazards to themselves, their families and communities. Being prepared with information that was previously reviewed and posted was especially helpful to many when the October 2007 wildfires occurred. Recovery information was immediately available. UCCE is taking steps to expand the program with a mobile educational kiosk, Web site and geographic information tools, and resources for the Spanish-speaking public.

Clientele Testimonial

“Great Job” – Ed Hayman, Fire Services Section, Department of Planning and Land Use
“AWESOME… nicely put together.” – Dana Carnduff, Burn Institute
“…the tip cards are fantastic and cover an extensive amount of information.” – Christine Meyers, Fire Safe Council of San Diego County


Supporting Unit: San Diego County

Terrell P. Salmon, (858) 694-2864, tpsalmon@ucdavis.edu
Janis Gonzales,(858) 694-8955, janis.gonzales@sdcounty.ca.gov