SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — With massive, lightning-sparked wildfires still burning the hills east of San Jose, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is rethinking its fire prevention and firefighting strategy and considering investing millions in new technology and equipment.
“We’re going to have to be regional. There’s just no way that any single fire department or cluster of departments is going to be able to handle what’s happening with wildfires,” says Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez.
Chavez wants the Board of Supervisors to invest in a system of high-tech cameras that can be used for rapid-fire detection, add more equipment like helicopters and bulldozers and ramp up its inspection program to ensure that homeowners are maintaining defensible space on their properties.
“In order for us to really fight these fires, suppression is going to have to be a big part of the work we’re doing,” says Chavez.
Chavez’s suggestions come from a 2019 report from the county’s fire department which says the size, frequency and destructiveness of recent wildfires make a new approach urgently necessary.
“You’ve got to clear dead growth because it’s kindling for fires,” said Michael Cardwell whose neighborhood was on the edge of the evacuation zone of the SCU Fire Complex in Eastern Santa Clara County.
Cardwell says the county and the state don’t do nearly enough preventative fire maintenance. He said budgetary constraints are often cited as the reason why more isn’t done. However, he says he fears the high cost of inaction in lives and property.
“We need to be proactive and we’re not. We’re a reactive state now,” says Cardwell.
The Board of Supervisors will discuss potential changes to its fire prevention plan at its Tuesday meeting.