Secretary of the Interior tours areas of San Diego County damaged by wildfires

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department hosted some impressive guests Wednesday in an attempt to boost the county's wildfire protection.

Soon-to-be SDFRD Chief Brian Fennessy took Rep. Scott Peters (D-52) and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on a tour above San Diego County in Copter 2.

Peters was trying to recruit Jewell to help protect the county against future wildfires.

"What I'm trying to do in the federal government is to fix the funding formula so we treat wildfires like any disaster," said Peters.

Right now, on the federal level, wildfire spending is very different from spending on natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

Jewell said the money usually reserved for wildfire prevention is often used to fight fires. She added that prevention is the key towards fighting future fires.

"The more visibility we can bring to this and the more citizens know about it, the more they can be a part of the solution and they are a critical part of the solution," she said.

Peters said the solution is fixing the way the federal government looks at wildfires.

"Right now, we spend prevention money to fight fires instead of funding the firefighting, and then spending the prevention money to prevent tomorrow's fires and saving money down the line," Peters said.

San Diego County and the federal government dipped into money earmarked for preventing fires to fight the fires in 2003, 2007 and 2014.

Jewell said that has to stop.

"So if we don't get on the prevention stuff, we're going to spend a lot more money on prevention and a lot more lives are going to be disrupted and lives lost," said Jewell.

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