San Marcos Officials Conceal Federal Fire Map

"It is not this council's policy to keep anything hidden from the people," said San Marcos’ Mayor Jim Desmond to fire chief Todd Newman during the city council's October 26 meeting. "The first time I even heard about this was in the newspaper."

Desmond was referring to a October 16 North County Times article alleging that city officials withheld a 2005 fire-threat assessment map for San Marcos neighborhoods that showed two communities at "extreme" risk for threat of wildfires. The article claimed that city officials concealed the map to prevent insurance companies from raising premiums in those neighborhoods or possibly voiding policies.

Before Chief Newman had a chance to respond, City Manager Paul Malone took the microphone. "That article seriously mischaracterizes significant [aspects] of that program and does a real disservice."

Chief Newman: "There is no secret map and there never has been a secret map." Newman went on to say that the map was part of a federal government grant. He also said that fire units used the map to make "sound decisions in high-risk areas."

"It was not to hide the map," continued Chief Newman. "We certainly wanted to reduce exposure because it was one of the things we could do to help protect the people [from their insurance companies]."

Newman said the map had already been used in community presentations, but the fire chief and city manager felt it was best to shelve it.

"Did we try to protect [the map]? Yeah, we did," Newman admitted to the council.

After Newman concluded his remarks, Mayor Desmond raised concerns that city officials decided to conceal the document.

City Manager Malone then spoke to premium increases and the "hundreds" of "threats" made by insurance companies following the 2007 firestorms. "We were not about to aid and abet the efforts of those insurers engaged in those practices by publishing a map that had no context."

The council will discuss the item during its November 7 meeting.

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In its entirety, this news item speaks to the devaluation by "San Marcos Officials" of ordinary citizens as stakeholders in emergency preparedness.

In the 2007 San Diego county wildfire complex of national significance, a small but significant number of county residents, feeling ignored after the 2003 Cedar fire, themselves ignored mandatory evacuation orders to save their homes and those of their neighbors. While initial responses by county officials expressed concern over those residents remaining behind in the absence of local firefighting resources, these individuals were later hailed as local heroes for their efforts beyond the call of evacuation.

Residents of San Marcos and anywhere else that SDG&E has overhead power lines, prepare yourselves regardless of what city officials tell or don't tell you.

Reply #1 Right On, Be Prepared, but always leave yourself a way out, if things get BAD!

Fire Hazard Severity Zones and San Marcos' and County-wide Local Responsibility Areas (LRA) were published online in 2008 by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as part of Cal Fire's Fire and Resource Assessment Program (FRAP).

There is nothing secret about the State maps excepts it specifically puts the City of San Marcos on notice, that the City is responsible for fire protection in areas designated Severe Fire Hazard zones within City limits. As shown on the FRAP Map, the areas directly north and south of San Marcos are the responsibility of the State. The City of San Marcos Planning Department is required to come up with plans and public policies for growth in these LRA zones of Severe Fire Hazards.

No surprise that Paul Malone is covering Todd Newman's ass.

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