Fire events shape O’Leary’s views
By Karen Brainard
Recently retired CalFire Deputy Chief Kevin O’Leary, of Ramona, holds a wealth of experience and firefighting knowledge. (See featured story on Kevin O’Leary.) The Sentinel asked him about specific topics of interest to Ramonans and they relate to wildfires.
“The most important thing is you,” O’Leary said. “You can’t replace a human life.”
When people stay and become trapped, they put firefighters who try to rescue them in harm’s way, said O’Leary. It takes away valuable resources to save people, he added.
O’Leary said he heard that 68 percent of Ramonans say they don’t plan to evacuate during the next wildfire.
“They better be prepared to the type of conditions in 2003 and 2007,” he cautioned.
In 2003, he said, there were incidents of people calling from cell phones, saying they were trapped in their homes, but firefighters discovered that was not the case. The callers just wanted their homes checked.
Community Emergency Response Team
“CERT can be the eyes and ears after the fire goes through,” O’Leary said.
Many homes burn three to five hours after a fire passes through. What the community can do to help is important, he said.
Shelter in Place
“It all depends on the weather,” said O’Leary. He mentioned the 2006 Esperanza fire near Cabazon that killed five seasoned firefighters and said super-heated gases came up on a ridge, entrapping the firefighters.
O’Leary said that after that fire he went to the area where the firefighters lost their lives and thought, “Things have really changed how you fight fires because of weather conditions and fuels.”
Although O’Leary predicts that there will be a lot of fires this year, he said the 100-year-old brush has burned in many areas and the new growth has fuel moisture that will help slow the spread of fires.
Areas that San Diego County is watching, he said, are I-15 at Deer Springs and west into Vista, which has a lot of old growth, and south of I-8 where the Laguna Fire burned in 1970.
- Retired firefighter has passion for his work
- Fire threat drops with rain
- CalFire investigates cause of 15-acre fire in Ramona
- Evacuation is emotional topic, chief says
- Not too late for fire prevention, says county
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