Questions asked about construction site safety after Bernardo Fire

Fire caused by a backhoe

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 is asking questions about equipment use during fire conditions after it was determined that the Bernardo Fire was sparked by equipment at a 4S Ranch construction site.

Equipment was once again moving at the site near Del Norte High School on Monday morning. It was less than a week ago when the Bernardo Fire began, scorching nearly 1,600 acres and causing thousands to evacuate.

Investigators say a backhoe started the fire, and some have questioned that type of work being done during hot, dry and windy conditions.

The Contractors State License Board said they do not regulate safety rules and typically focus more on proper licensing.

A spokesman at Cal/OSHA in the Bay Area initially told Team 10 Monday morning they did not regulate rules in regards to fire safety when asked about what type of measures are in place for construction sites. A spokesman said the agency typically gets involved after an employee injury.

After several hours of research, Team 10 found regulations under Cal/OSHA that do focus on fire prevention and protection. Under the Cal/OSHA code, it says, "The employer is responsible for establishing an effective fire prevention program and ensuring that it is followed."

It also requires training for fire extinguishers, which "must be kept fully charged, inspected monthly, and serviced annually."

A source at a local construction company would not go on camera but said when it comes to fire extinguishers, the extinguishers are typically on the equipment in case of an emergency. He also said each safety plan differs for each company and that Cal/OSHA rules are not specific.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Cal/OSHA spokesman clarified the agency’s involvement.

Greg Siggins with Cal/OSHA said in a statement: “Cal/OSHA is not investigating this incident because there was no precipitating incident such as a reportable injury, complaint or referral that gives us jurisdictional authority.”

Siggins also emphasized the agency regulates workplace safety and health and that “all work sites must have fire prevention safety measures, including construction sites.”

Since there were no injuries in the Bernardo Fire, Cal/OSHA likely will not get involved. However, if it is later found that a company did not have an adequate safety plan, a spokesman said that could change.

(Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly named Pinnick, Inc., as the operator of the backhoe that started the Bernardo fire, but the company was not responsible. We regret the error. Meanwhile, the San Diego Fire Department has refused to release the name of the company that did operate the backhoe. A fire department spokesperson said the responsible company “took reasonable precautions” and tried to put out the fire. 10News has filed a public records request to obtain the name of the responsible company.)

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