By John Hawkins
Riverside County Fire Chief

Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department/County Office of Emergency Services is committed to providing the best public protection possible and to always work to improve community life and property safety. We will analyze what is best to reduce risks for a community, report what is best, and work hard to implement what is best for life and property risk reduction. This is just what we have always done and will continue to do for the San Jacinto/Santa Rosa mountains area.

We support collaborative private/public partnerships that jointly work to reduce risk from all types of hazards, person- or naturally caused. County Fire/County OES will work very closely with citizen volunteer organizations, including the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council and its Woodies, Mountain Disaster Preparedness, the Idyllwild HELP Center, Mountain Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services, the Mile High Radio Club/WNKI AM 1610, the Mountain Community Patrol and the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit.

As such, last year, I implemented a public/private working group, the Fire Code Committee, to look at the oft-repeated community concern requesting community fire hazard reduction, particularly vacant parcels interspersed between developed parcels. Initially, the FCC set collaborative goals. The goals as originally created and remain the same today are as follows:

1. Determine and recommend the best practices application of fire statutes and codes for the reduction of fire hazards on occupied and vacant properties.

2. Review and evaluate the fire statute or fire code authorities available to reduce the fire hazard. This includes the application of Public Resources Code § 4291 to occupied parcels and the application of Riverside County Ordinance 695, et. al. to vacant properties.

3. If warranted, provide recommendations for the improvement of existing fire statutes and fire codes.

4. Provide recommendations for the elimination of natural vegetative waste created from hazard reduction efforts.

The FCC to date has only had time to conduct fact finding and to determine what statutes and regulations exist allowing or regulating community fire safety. The committee will continue due-diligence fact finding and transparent actions before making any recommendations to elected officials. The community will be involved once recommendations are developed.

MCFSC is a great organization and one that has stood tall and strong in the best interests of community fire safety. It seriously cares about community safety, as witnessed by the commitment of its citizen volunteers who literally give thousands of hours to reduce the risk of fire through dooryard fire inspections, surveys for the extension of the Goldenspotted oak borer and much more.

I am honored to serve as the county fire chief and will always strive for the best community life and property safety. The public deserves and expects the best; I am continually committed to that outcome.

Since I first came to Riverside County in early 2004 and became an incident commander for the Mountain Areas Safety Taskforce, I have worked hard to implement hazardous fuel reduction projects, including dooryard and community hazard reduction, grant acquisition and execution for fuels projects, pre-planning for evacuation, including developing a very comprehensive evacuation plan that was successfully tested on the July 2013 Mountain Fire and execution of multiple training exercises to ensure our first responders play the way they practice and that they, indeed, do train. I will continue the same commitment throughout my tenure as the Riverside County fire chief.