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Local utilities and fire agencies finalize arrangement to improve fire response in North County

Olivenhain Municipal Water District and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced Oct. 6 that they have reached an agreement to stage a firefighting helicopter on a currently unused pad adjacent to OMWD’s David C. McCollom Water Treatment Plant on days of elevated fire risk through the 2014 fire season, improving fire response capacity in North County.

SDG&E is currently under contract with the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department to provide helicopters to increase regional firefighting capabilities during the 2014 fire season. In order to improve regional coverage, officials from SDG&E, the City of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, and Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District established that it would be beneficial to stage the helicopter nearer North County, which was heavily affected by the May 2014 fires.

A graded area at the David C. McCollom Water Treatment Plant was identified as an ideal location at which to stage the firefighting helicopter due to its central location and relative distance from residential areas.

Ed Sprague, OMWD board treasurer stated: “OMWD’s role during wildfires is generally to make sure that water continues to flow to hydrants, homes, and businesses. But recently, we’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with SDG&E and the fire agencies here today to take a more active role in firefighting efforts by hosting equipment that can drastically reduce response times for our customers and for our facilities.”

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“The unseasonable wildfires in May in North County certainly underlined the importance of regional wildfire resources — no matter where or when they might be needed,” said John Sowers, vice president of electric distribution operations for SDG&E. “We are pleased to be able to provide the Type II helicopter to enhance the county’s overall fire preparedness and aerial response efforts and to make our communities safer.”

Added Mike Gibbs, deputy fire chief for the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District: “This partnership will not only benefit our fire district’s mission, but also the mission of all North County fire departments, as this regional helicopter will be available to these agencies when they are impacted by a wildland fire.”

After fire season has concluded, the agencies intend to revisit the partnership with an eye toward extending the arrangement beyond 2014.


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