Opinion/Letters to the Editor July 2021



July 15 issue:

Duncan Brown: Perspective of a former student

I am an alum of Oakcrest and San Dieguito Academy (SDA), taught by a group of exceptionally supportive and knowledgeable teachers. And Duncan Brown was my counselor for my time at SDA. I’ve known Duncan Brown my entire life. My mom is a teacher and has worked closely with his wife for over 25 years. His daughter and I grew up together.

It shocks me to read accusations of Mr. Brown “stalking” and “jumping out of the bushes” at board members, of being “power hungry” separating him from the teachers he represents. These images of some evil person are laughable to anyone who knows Mr. Brown. We all know Duncan Brown to be humble, soft-spoken, supportive and principled.

That evil image of him is laughable, until it isn’t funny anymore. This past year, my mom would describe teaching during the pandemic – the difficulties of the job, yes, but more sadly about the contentious environment brought on by the same people making these attacks on Mr. Brown. One day back in January, I was texting my mom back and forth as she was listening in on a school board meeting. She described how everyone would say how they loved and respected teachers, while continually marginalizing them in decisions about reopening. I responded back to her, “Everyone loves teachers…until they want to be safe or get paid.”

Mr. Brown served me well as my counselor – building my course schedule, writing letters of recommendation, being a smiling face in the office. He also serves my mom, my teachers, and all their colleagues as San Dieguito Faculty Association president – working harder than ever to assure they are supported and heard, so they can focus on doing what they do for kids. That’s the Duncan Brown I know. And I thank him. So should everyone else. He deserves civility and respect from board members and the community.

Julia Herold,

SDA, Class of 2019

July 22 issue:

Guest commentary: Wildfire safety during peak fire season

Rancho Santa Fe Fire District

As we head into peak fire season, by now, every resident should have completed their defensible space clearing to protect their home from wildfire. This important requirement not only makes your home less susceptible to wildfire, but it better prepares the entire community from the ravages of wildfire.

An important and often overlooked component of defensible space is the structure itself and the first five feet around the structure. Too many times we have seen homes with exceptional clearing burn to the ground. Why? It’s due to flying embers. Embers have been known to blow over a mile ahead of the fire, creating spot fires. If you have an accumulation of debris — like leaf litter on the roof or at the base of the home, combustible landscape vegetation or items like patio furniture, firewood, or other materials such as mulch too close to your home — all it takes is for one flying ember to land and ignite this material. The heat that is generated is then transferred to your home potentially causing its ignition.

Another is structural venting. Most homes have attic space venting; if you have a subfloor, you probably have foundation vents. Older homes were not required to be built with ember resistant venting. Proper ember resistant venting prevents these flying embers from entering you attic or subfloor space and igniting your home.

It is estimated that over 75% of the homes lost in the Rancho Santa Fe area during the Witch Creek fire were lost due to flying embers. I was a Battalion Chief at the time and I remember driving down some of our local roadways seeing homes on fire that weren’t even close to the fire front.

I would highly encourage every resident to walk around their home. Then visualize flying embers being blown towards your home landing on the roof and near the foundation. Would an ember have a receptive fuel bed where sustainable combustion could be the result? Could it get through an attic or foundation vent? If so, eliminate the receptive fuel bed or look into ember resistant vents.

Fire resources will be scarce during the initial phases of a large widespread fire. During the 2007 Witch Creek Fire, the only resources in RSF, were our units and a small contingent of fire engines from our neighboring fire departments. Relief did not arrive until almost 24 hours later and it came from Sonoma County and the City of San Francisco. So it’s important to make your home fire safe!

Lastly, natural disasters occur most anywhere in the United States. Living in Southern California, our biggest threat just happens to wildfire. Every resident needs to be prepared. Some pointers:

1. Everyone needs to maintain wildland fire situational awareness - especially during peak fire season or on high fire danger days. Download apps on your smart phone such as and

These are good applications for information on wildfire and is an excellent tool for Public Safety Power Shutdown notification. Also remember to register your cell phone on the SD Emergency application.

2. Everyone needs to have an evacuation plan and be fully prepared to evacuate in less than 15 minutes. Know at least two routes out of the area.

3. Evacuate early – even before being told to do so if the fire is nearby or if you have to move large animals.

4. Ensure your home is prepared to survive – provide proper defensible space, verify no combustibles are within the first 5 feet of your home, and please consider other home hardening tips, e.g., ember resistant venting. It’s too late to do this when a fire occurs.

5. It’s always best to evacuate when ordered to do so - leave the area and go to safety. If evacuation is not an option (such as path of travel is cut off by fire), you may have to shelter in place. This is why it is so vitally important to ensure your home and property is prepared to survive a wildland fire. If your home is not properly prepared to survive, you will not be either.

The Rancho Santa Fe Fire District is committed to provide a high level of service to our residents. This is not only emergency response, but fire prevention and community education activities as well. If you wish to have your property inspected, want to report a fire hazard, request a community education activity, or just want to learn more about fire safety, please visit us at www.RSF-FIRE.ORG or call us 858-756-5971.