The Descanso Community Wildfire Protection Plan(CWPP) is a comprehensive plan developed by the Descanso Emergency Preparedness and Fire Safe Group with the guidance and support of CalFire, US Forest Service, San Diego Fire Safe Council, Cleveland National Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife, San Diego Fire Authority, and Bureau of Land Management. It is our group’s goal to clarify and refine our community’s priorities for the protection of life, property, and critical infastruction in the Descanso wildland-urban interface and to guide community members in the understanding of management options and implications for the community.
Overview of the CWPP
Descanso is a small rural mountain community that is located approximately 40 miles east of downtown San Diego at an elevation between 3450 and 3700 feet.
The town of approximately 30 square miles and over 1,700 residents is surrounded by the Cleveland National Forest and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.
Descanso is federally-designated as a community at-risk for wildfires and has been subjected to numerous large fires over the years due to the hot/dry Santa Ana wind conditions that the fall season brings.
The USFS has an ongoing fuel management program in and around the community, along with planned future projects sponsored by CAL FIRE in the area.
Values at Risk Within the Community:
Residential homes and ranches, including barns, garages, outbuildings, vehicles, and landscaping.
Commercial entities, including churches, stores, Camp Oliver, a major SDG&E electric utility substation an AT&T switching center for landline telephones, and various hubs for a local wireless system carrying Internet service spread throughout the community (Mountain Mesh).
County, state, and federal entities, including the post office, USFS facilities, CAL FIRE facilities, the Laguna Hot Shot facility, and the county maintenance yard with ARC Mass Care trailer.
Municipal entities, particularly including Descanso Community Water District wells and storage tanks which have been extensively used during past events to resupply water to regional firefighting personnel.
Local Preparedness and Firefighting Capability
Wildland fire protection within the Descanso area is primarily the responsibility of the USFS with a small portion of the eastern edge being the primary responsibility of CAL FIRE.
As a participant in the San Diego County Master Mutual Aid Plan, the SD Rural, USFS, and CAL FIRE routinely are the recipients of assistance on major incidents from organizations throughout the County. This program ensures adequate depth of response for any size emergency.
The Descanso Community Water District has standpipes and hydrants in the central municipal area that are gravity-fed via combinations of 2, 4, and 6 inch diameter pipeline from an 800,000 gallon storage capability and replenished by a primary well and a backup, both commercial.
The American Red Cross has approved Descanso Elementary School as a Temporary Evacuation Point (TEP) for use during emergencies.
The American Red Cross has also approved Camp Oliver as a Mass Care Center for use by any community including Descanso should residential evacuation be necessary.
Prioritized Fuel Reduction Treatments
Perform ongoing comprehensive assessment of existing hazards, values at risk, and identification of pertinent actions to address identified hazards. Conduct fuel management projects whereby fuel loads are reduced along selected ingress/egress routes and in proximity to homes and other critical infrastructures in the community.
Fuel breaks have been created by USFS and CAL FIRE from 2009 in nearby communities. The USFS does not currently have any fuel breaks planned for Descanso due to the break that was created by the Cedar Fire in 2003.
Improvement of ingress/egress roads in Sherrilton Valley to allow passage of multiple private vehicles and/or emergency response vehicle access to the community at the same time.
Due to the devastation caused by the Gold Spotted Oak Borer and Pine beetles, the removal of dead, diseased, and dying trees has been established as an exigency problem by the State of California.
Weed abatement inspections are normally conducted by CAL FIRE and forced abatements of non-compliant properties are dealt with by the County of San Diego. CAL FIRE is also responsible for burn permits locally. The County is responsible for weed abatement alongside county roads within their normal easements.
The DEPG/FSC continues to be responsible for local education at community events regarding 100 foot minimum defensible space for private residences and other fire-wise criteria. The DEPG/FSC also continues to make available color-coded street address signs to residents for nominal cost, thereby enabling easy identification of property addresses by responding agencies.
Treatment of Structural Ignitability
Defensible space for residences remains the most important factor for reducing structural ignitability.
Structural hardening will also be the subject of DEPG/FSC education efforts.
Clearly visible reflective property address identification with color-coding (blue background for 5000 gallon minimum water storage with approved interface for fire vehicles, green for none) are encouraged on an ongoing basis in order to ease the burden of navigation by fire personnel within the community when emergency services are needed at homes and/or businesses.
The Community Wildfire Protection Plan as developed for Descanso
Was collaboratively developed, and meets the intent of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) in emphasizing the need for agencies to work collaboratively with communities in developing hazardous fuel reduction projects, and places priority on treatment areas identified by communities themselves in a CWPP.
Identifies and prioritizes areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommends the types and methods of treatment that will protect areas within this CWPP.
Recommends measures to reduce ignitability of structures throughout the area addressed by the plan.
This CWPP is intended for use as a planning and assessment tool only, utilizing a compilation of community issues/goals and projected fire mitigation strategies. The CWPP is not to be construed as indicative of project “activity” as defined under the “Community Guide to the California Environmental Quality Act, Chapter Three, Projects Subject to CEQA.”
To view the signed copy of the Descanso Community Wildfire Protection click here. 2018 CWPP