Fire News

Latest News

The Local Assistance Center (LAC) has moved to the Information Center at 11885 Cypress Canyon Road. The hours are: M, T, W, F, 8 am-5 pm; Th., 8 am-6 pm; and, every first and third Sat., 9 am-1 pm. The City Development Services Department, Council District 5, and the SRCA are available at the LAC.

As of press time 89% of homes destroyed by the fire have cleared their lots, including the slabs. One home is being rebuilt, while two more building permits have been issued.

Building Code Changes and Brush Management

I am pleased to have secured the support of the City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 20, to approve new building code regulations to ban wood shake and wood shingle roofs, and to require new structures in the city to have Class A roofs. This type of roof must be made of materials resistant to severe fire exposure, but does not necessarily include noncombustible materials such as concrete or slate shingles. These new codes also apply to roof repairs that encompass more than 25% of a structure's roof area.

Whether noncombustible roofs should be required in High Fire Hazard Areas was referred for more study. Also referred for further review was a proposal to require Class A roofs to be in place in the city within 25 years.

These new restrictions go into effect on Thursday, Mar. 4. These changes were not approved as an emergency ordinance as originally proposed, therefore no retroactive effective date applies.

Other emergency city proposals to require sprinklers, boxed eaves, and other restrictions on new construction will now go through the regular building code modification process. A status report on these issues is due to the City Council within 90 days.

While I am pleased to put in place roofing requirements that will undoubtedly make Scripps Ranch safer, I also realize we need to be reasonable on other issues. We must take a close look at data that may or may not support more stringent restrictions.

Scripps Ranch was well represented at the City Council meeting. Bob Ilko, Ken Klein, Don Robinson, and Lisa Yates delivered an organized presentation favoring only the roofing issues, which were approved. Tom Sayer, Lisa Black, and the Bell family, among others, all presented supportive and reasoned statements to the council.

At press time, the City Council was scheduled to vote on new brush management guidelines for the entire city on Tuesday, Jan. 27. These new guidelines will put in place a uniform requirement for thinning and pruning brush in a 100-foot zone behind homes. This 100-foot area includes a 30-foot barrier (Zone 1), which basically includes your backyard. Then, another 70 feet of space (Zone 2) will provide more defensible space where brush must be regularly cleared.

Procedures for proper brush management can be found at [http://www.sandiego.gov/fireandems/pdf/brushpdf.pdf].

For homes bordering city open space, the city will work with the SRCA and individual neighborhoods this spring and summer to develop long-term plans to properly manage the growth of brush throughout Scripps Ranch. These new guidelines are intended to put in place a consistent standard throughout the city and will work with the building code changes to provide more lines of defense from fires in Scripps Ranch.

Project Phoenix Update

The Scripps Ranch Civic Association (SRCA) continues its efforts to assist displaced residents on many issues such as rebuilding and insurance. To better equip residents to handle insurance matters, additional presentations and informational forums will cover scope of loss, additional living expenses, what is "special handling," statement of intent to rebuild, settlements and releases, deductibles, personal property inventory, and code upgrades.

Of greatest concern is underinsurance. A recent nationwide article reports that 64% of homeowners are underinsured by 27%. The article further states that insurance companies are trying to correct the problem by basing insurance coverage on reconstruction costs, not new construction costs. With permission from the publisher, the SRCA will try to make the article available on its website soon.

The SRCA is also participating with fire committees from all over San Diego County. At our initiation, a countywide steering committee is being proposed whereby insurance information can be shared among groups. It is envisioned that the steering committee would go to Sacramento to testify at insurance committee hearings and perhaps propose legislative reform--for example, wildfire insurance either similar to earthquake or flood insurance or as an endorsement.

There are now issues arising such as how to refinance mortgages and obtain construction loans. A finance forum evening is being pursued to include a panel of bankers, attorneys, and CPAs.

Another area that remains an issue is itemizing. We forwarded one resident's concerns to the California Department of Insurance and their response applies to others. Jim Johnson, the Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Services and Market Conduct for the California Department of Insurance, says that in addition to trying to justify to the insurance company those things that you lost, there are also tax reasons for itemizing.

Things not covered by insurance because you either exceeded the amount of the contents or you didn't have a separate rider--such as for jewelry--would have to be itemized for the IRS and claimed as a loss.

As the rebuild and insurance process continues, it is clear that some displaced residents may need mental health support or marriage counseling. The SRCA is engaging a local university to explore the best way to offer information so that residents can make informed decisions as to whether they need assistance.

Lastly, the SRCA will attempt to create a childcare program to help residents attend meetings. We are looking for volunteers. If you can help, please contact me at [[email protected]].

Removing Fire Damages

As you remove fire-killed trees and brush, please collect the cuttings in 40# bundles and set them out for the regular greenery pickup. Do not leave them in place, as they become potential fire fuel.

One Family's Story

Darlene Bourdon and her family lost their home on La Colina Road. They have been kind enough to share their story with us each month so we can know what fire-affected families face. Here's their story this month:

Like most of our neighbors who lost homes, we were greatly encouraged by the first signs of construction. The house on Handrich Drive is an inspiration. We watch the progress daily and hope to see our own foundation poured soon.

We are still waiting for our insurance company to accurately determine the cost of rebuilding our home. It seems that "guaranteed replacement" is not the carefree concept suggested by the company when the policy was sold. Since we recently had the entire house remodeled, we presented the insurance company with an itemized cost of reconstruction, as prepared by our previous contractor.

The company sent an adjuster from another city with a computer program but no construction experience. The program determined reconstruction costs that several contractors said were unrealistic. We told the company that unless their computer program was going to come to San Diego and build our home, the settlement offer was unacceptable. So, here we are two months after the loss and the insurance company finally agreed to use a contractor to determine reconstruction costs. What a novel idea!

Like most addresses destroyed in the fire, ours is still a dirt lot. We are also awaiting a "soils engineer" to determine if the soil is adequately compacted for a foundation. There is so much to learn.

On a positive note, this holiday season was very special. It was a catalyst to rekindle old friendships and rebuild memories. Friends and family went through old photos and gave us some going back 30 years. We were astonished to see photos we thought were gone.

Even a distant relative in Europe sent an email telling us he is collecting old family photos for us. He was able to see the extent of the damage on the SRCA website. All this, together with the efforts of the Yearbook Replacement Committee, has replaced images we will never again take for granted.

Miles of Smiles

Miles of Smiles is a community fire-relief project to help families affected by the wildfires rebuild their photo collection. We ask people to look through their photos for any fire-affected residents. Bring the pictures to Dingeman Elementary School to make copies at no charge.

So far, photos have been made for about 85 Scripps Ranch families and several more from Ramona, Crest, Poway, Barona, and Tierrasanta. Close to 9,000 pictures have been made!

Hewlett-Packard of Rancho Bernardo has loaned Dingeman 15 All-In-One machines, its top scanner-color-copier unit. HP has also donated the photo paper and ink. The quality is excellent!

We can't thank Hewlett-Packard enough for their generosity! We also want to thank local Creative Memory consultants for donating albums to the families. Huge thanks also to the following: Office Depot of Carmel Mountain; Marshall Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association; Dingeman Honor Choir; Canyon Springs Church; and, Masterpiece Cookie Dough. All helped out with other costs for the project.

Our final photo replacement sessions are on Friday, Feb. 6, from 3 to 8 pm and Saturday, Feb. 7, from 10 am to 4 pm. What a thrill it is for families to find out their friends made pictures for them!

Other Fire News

Free childcare: Mt. Olive Lutheran Church and Preschool, for children ages 2-8, from 1-5 pm on the following Sundays: Feb. 8 and 22, Mar. 7 and 21, and future dates to be announced. Please provide verification of being a fire-affected family. Call Melinda Keba at 566-8676 or Mount Olive Preschool at 748-3872.

Community Prayer Walk: The last Saturday of each month. This month it is on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 9 am. Meet at the Whispering Ridge Pool and Tennis Club. For information, call: Jim and Shelly Anderson at 442-7701; Charlie and Barbara Adolphe at 248-0491; or, Gil and Janelle Lorona at 578-2393.

Fire stories: Emmy award-winning filmmaker and Scripps Ranch resident, Bob Sloan, and Mary Handfelt, corporate video producer, are working on a documentary about the fire and its impact on our community. If you have home video taken before, during, or after the fire, we can copy it and return it promptly. Please contact Mary Handfelt at 695-6672 or [[email protected]].

Thank You's

In our effort to thank all those who helped the community during and after the fire, we continue to list those brought to our attention. Thank you to:

  • Linda Brawley-Carroll, American Mortgage Network;
  • Mona Jagtiani;
  • Quicksilver;
  • Vicky Romero; and,
  • The Animal Keeper, Poway.

Holds:

Green Spray On Hillsides

The green spray on the hillsides is a soil stabilizer containing a good mix of native seeds. Hopefully, it will reseed the slopes. It is part of the city-directed plan for erosion control and not part of your Landscape Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) action. The MAD action removed fire debris from the north side, and is doing the same on the south side.

Telling Our Fire Stories

In the face of profound loss, we see the best of humankind. You've heard the stories; some are your own, others are those of friends or neighbors. Please share them with us.

The SRCA wants to collect the poignant, inspiring stories that came out of the recent firestorm and publish them in a book. Summarize your most compelling story in 200-300 words and email it to [[email protected]]. Please do it while the memories are still fresh. Also, if you have photos, preferably digital, that complement your story, please submit those as well. The SRCA will determine which stories to include.

Erosion Control

Now that the rainy season is here, residents in some Scripps Ranch neighborhoods may be concerned about erosion, particularly after the fire. Here are some dos and don'ts for erosion control put out by the City of San Diego Engineering and Capital Projects Department.

Don't...

  • Walk, drive, or ride bikes on fire-affected soils;
  • Remove trees or brush unless they represent an immediate threat to health and safety;
  • Divert runoff onto areas where it will cause flooding or damage to adjacent property; and,
  • Disturb treated areas following application of straw mulch, erosion control blankets, hydraulic practices, seed, or fiber rolls.

Do...

  • Minimize disturbance of fire-affected soils, especially slopes;
  • Follow city guidelines for installation of mitigation measures;
  • Allow vegetation, including trees and brush, to grow through the winter before pruning dead material;
  • Protect slopes by mulching with weed-free straw and/or an erosion control blanket;
  • Place fiber rolls on the contour and not on an incline;
  • Use sandbag barriers where the objective is to divert water--for example, to prevent runoff from flowing down a burned slope;
  • Place gravel bags where the objective is to filter water flow while retaining sediment and debris--for example, around storm drain inlets;
  • Inspect mitigation measures before predicted rainfall of " or greater and after storms where accumulated rainfall exceeds "; and,
  • Regularly inspect sediment control devices, including check dams, gravel bag berms and brow ditches, removing sediment when it has accumulated to half the height of the structure.

For more information about, or assistance with erosion and sediment control measures, call the City of San Diego's Engineering and Capital Projects' Field Engineering Division, Monday through Friday, 7 am-5 pm. Ask for the Post-Fire Response Team at 627-3200.

Straw Bales At Ancona

The straw bales that were stockpiled at the Ancona Lane open space for use by residents in erosion control will be removed, as they were not needed. Although they have become a wonderful play area for city children who do not often get to play around hay bales, they could become a potential fire hazard and an eyesore.