9/13/20: Are You Prepared for a Wildfire?

Every day I think about how to keep our people and property in Encinitas safe from wildfire. 

The city had a red flag warning in effect last week, meaning that rapid wildfire spreading was possible, based on the onset of dry, windy weather conditions. Fortunately, it turned out that the Santa Ana winds coming from the desert and blowing to the west were not as severe as predicted.

By this time last year, 118,000 acres in California had burned. This year more than 3.1 million acres are now charred from recent fires, including the still-active Valley Fire in southeast San Diego County.

Washington and Oregon, where my sister and her family live, are also seeing their forests and homes decimated by fire. My sister told me that in Portland they have stinging eyes and sore throats from their inside air quality and most avoid going outdoors. 

With fatalities, evacuations and displacement, it’s difficult to comprehend the level of anguish that so many families are experiencing now. My compassion goes out to them, and our valiant firefighters and first responders.

(Photo of Governor Gavin Newsom by Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP.)

Last Friday, Gov. Newsom was blunt as he toured the fire damage in Northern California, saying the state is currently battling five of the 20 most destructive fires in the last century.

“The debate is over in terms of climate change,” he said. “We have to own that reality and we have to own the response to that reality.” 

It’s well understood that we need to change course if we want to avoid the continued worsening of our climate crisis. In Encinitas, we have fully internalized that. Since I’ve been in elected office, many residents, elected officials and I have worked together to create a systemic approach for our city to fight climate change and lessen the amount of carbon we produce.

No matter what happens at the federal level, cities are where decisions that actually reduce carbon emissions are made. Encinitas’ award-winning Climate Action Plan creates accountability and specific actions involving everything from single-use plastic reduction to more bike lanes and cleaner energy sources. 

As we continue to work toward a greener future, we must also deal with the immediacy of the wildfire threat. We still have the remainder of September and all of next month to be in a state of high vigilance about the risk of fire.

Please read the recommendations below and take the time to think ahead about your family’s plan. The safety of you, your family and loved ones is the most important thing.

Firefighters make a stand in the backyard of a home in front of an advancing Northern California fire. (Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Here are recommendations by the Encinitas Fire Department to make sure you are ready. The main takeaways are: stay informed, be ready, and evacuate early in case of a wildfire.

1) Download the “SD Emergency App – the Must-Have Preparedness App in San Diego County” on your smartphone or tablet. The app contains disaster preparedness information and will keep you informed with emergency updates, interactive emergency maps, and shelter locations. Download from the Apple App Store, the Android App on Google Play, or click here to be directed there. 

2) Have a plan in case of an evacuation for you and your family. If you have large animals, have a place in mind for them in advance and get them out early.

3) If a wildfire threatens our community, you don’t have to wait for an evacuation order. Leave early. 

For more information on how to prepare for a disaster, visit www.encinitasca.gov/Emergencyprep.

Finally, be extremely cautious using anything that could spark a wildfire. Gender-reveal parties using fireworks are a bad idea! One less spark could mean one less wildfire. You can learn more on preventing wildfires caused by people at www.readyforwildfire.org/prevent-wildfire.

New York Times interactive tracking map of the fires is here.

 Meet our new City Manager, Pam Antil!

I’m delighted to tell you that last week the Encinitas City Council unanimously approved a contract for our new city manager, Pam Antil, who will start work on October 12!

The city manager is the city’s top employee. All of the city’s departments report to her, including the fire chief, the Development Services Director, the Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department head, and many more. The City Council only hires two people – the city manager and the city attorney. The city manager is responsible for hiring everyone else and managing the staff of the city.

During my nearly six years in elected office, I’ve only worked with one city manager, Karen Brust, who served us very well and retired about four months ago. Given Encinitas’ status as a high caliber city, we had a large and well-qualified applicant pool of more than 60 candidates. We interviewed six and narrowed it down to Pam (using social distancing protocols, as seen in the photo below).

For close to five years, Pam as been the assistant city manager in Santa Barbara, which has a lot in common with Encinitas. Both coastal cities have high expectations, high land values, a railroad running through them, and grapple with housing-related growth issues.

Pam has also had stints in several other cities that give her valuable background, including Palo Alto, San Jose, and Rancho Palos Verdes. Along with her impressive resume, I was also taken with her energy, multitude of ideas, and positive temperament. The City Council was unanimously enthusiastic about her. 

And we’re tremendously grateful to Jennifer Campbell, our Director of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts, who’s been acting city manager for the last several months and has done a masterful job at the helm. 

You can read more about Pam Antil and her hiring in the Coast News and the Encinitas Advocate.

We’re heading into candidate forum season, a part of the campaign process I really enjoy. You get to hear the candidates speak to the same question, and see the way their minds work. It’s invigorating to engage in public conversations about the issues. It’ll be a bit different doing them virtually because of the pandemic, but I remain eager to participate.

The non-partisan League of Women Voters, which hosts candidate forums countywide every year, has announced their schedule for the Encinitas Mayor race and the two Encinitas City Council races. All three Encinitas races have one incumbent and one opponent. So each online Zoom forum will feature two candidates, answering questions submitted here in advance

The candidate forums won’t be seen live, but the League of Women Voters says they’ll be posted here soon after being recorded. The mayor’s forum co-hosted with the Leucadia-Encinitas Town Council will be recorded on Wednesday, September 30 at 6 p.m., and the forum co-hosted with the Cardiff Town Council will be recorded on Tuesday, October 6 at 6 p.m.

The forums for District 1 and 2 City Council candidates, co-hosted by the Leucadia-Encinitas Town Council, will be recorded on Thursday, September 24. (If you’re not sure which Encinitas district you live in, you can click here and enter your address.) 

The candidate forum recordings will be posted on LWVNCSD’s You Tube Channel here.

If you live in Cardiff, Olivenhain or parts of New Encinitas, your City Council candidate isn’t on this year’s ballot – that election will happen in two years.

Questions may be submitted at any time, but no later than 6 p.m. one day prior to each forum. The link to submit candidate questions is here.

Can you help us distribute door hangers in Encinitas?

Three dedicated volunteers from Leucadia checking in to our door drop last week. Thank you!

Finally, we’ve been enjoying getting out in the sunshine, teaming up to deliver door hangers for County Supervisor candidate Terra Lawson-RemermeCouncilmember Tony Kranz, and Deputy Mayor Kellie Hinze. These touchless door drops of campaign literature for voters are happening on Tuesdays and Saturdays through October 3

If you would like to volunteer, please choose a shift or two and sign up here!

The sheer energy of goodwill and support for our campaigns, even in the midst of the current crisis, speaks volumes about the optimism and spirit that makes Encinitas such a wonderful place. I’m very grateful to you and look forward to continuing our progress together! 

In service,

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