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Planning and Education Saves Lives

San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CA -- On October 21, 2007, the Harris Fire began its race toward the San Miguel Fire District border with a vengeance. Wind conditions were so extreme and smoke conditions were so heavy that air support was ineffective. This was to be a battle fought by the troops on the ground.

Preplans established utilizing funds from a 2004 Fire Prevention & Safety Grant were studied and distributed not only among local fire suppression forces but also given to incoming firefighting personnel unfamiliar with the area. The preplans were instrumental in alerting those crews to safety zones, hazards, roadways, and topography for the region. "These preplans helped substantially in fire suppression efforts," said Joe Ranalli, Battalion Chief at the San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District (CFPD), who was also the San Miguel Branch Director of the Harris Fire.

The Harris Fire was a battle "won" within the San Miguel CFPD borders. Not a single life or a single structure was lost or even damaged, in large part due to the pre-planning and community education programs that were put into place utilizing two FP&S Grants totaling $82,000. The Harris Fire burned 90,440 acres, cost in excess of $15.6 million to fight, and, at its peak, had 2,214 fire personnel assigned to fight it.

Home saved thanks to fire education

In the area known as Millar Ranch, which is served by only one road, the home owned by the Highfill family rests in a wildland-urban interface area in San Diego's East County and within the San Miguel CFPD border. As the Harris Fire approached, Mr. Michael Highfill and his family evacuated safely but spent several days wondering what happened to their home.

Last updated October 23, 2020