The Coast News Group
Life, Liberty and Leadership

Fire detection takes ‘quick thinking’

It is hard to believe but after spending some $8 million on new fire stations the city of Encinitas is not doing all it can to protect citizens.
In the eyes of many, Encinitas leaders are stuck in the horse and buggy days when they should be taking advantage of wireless and technology solutions to improve early fire detection.
Unlike the “Olden Days,” in modern times occupants are away from homes most hours of the day.
When structural fires occur and are not discovered heat builds up until everything literally explodes. Windows break. Flames come through the roof.
In the industry this is called the flash point. Once a structure hits the flash point it is likely gone.
A successful fire program requires three elements. The first is fire prevention, the second is early detection and the third is fire suppression.
Together these elements form a triangle of safety. If one leg of the triangle is missing, as it is in Encinitas, then the effectiveness of the whole fire department is compromised.
The apartment fire in Leucadia on April 22 is a case in point.
It destroyed one unit and heavily damaged a second. It could have been worse. The whole 18-unit complex could have gone up in smoke.
By pure chance a passerby spotted the flames and called in the alarm.
Because of the call 35 firefighters arrived just in time. Citizens should not have to rely on chance to save their life or property when better early detection programs are available.
Luckily no lives were lost but that is not always the case. A fire near the Leucadia fire station claimed the lives of two children.
A fire on Santa Fe caused another death.
Another resident perished in a fire on Requeza. Obviously Encinitas needs an early detection program to better protect residents.
In 2001, then Fire Chief Heiser recognized the lack of a citywide early fire detection system was placing lives and property in danger. He estimated as many as three to five lives and $40 million of property could be lost in the next 15 years if a solution was not provided. He was right.
A report titled “Quick Thinking” was presented to Encinitas council members but was never considered or agendized for public hearings.
“Quick Thinking” included a plan to protect residents with little cost to the city. The public was never given a chance to discuss the volunteer program and the “Quick Thinking” plan was buried.
“Quick Thinking” would give residents and business owners who wanted it a program to install wireless fire and smoke detection systems that would connect directly to Encinitas Fire Station No. 5. Much of the city’s cost for monitoring could be recovered from the tax money being paid to the Rancho Santa Fe Dispatch Center.
“Quick Thinking” would provide faster emergency service at virtually no cost to residents because of a homeowner credit by insurance companies and firefighters would get increased safety because fires could be brought under control earlier. It would be a win-win for all.
The “Quick Thinking” early fire detection plan needs to be resurrected from the ash heap of history and agendized for public debate. While Mayor Bond, Deputy Mayor Stocks and Gaspar control the council agenda and have blocked public discussions on important items like pensions, perhaps a voice championing the safety of the public will step forward and allow the early detection program to be considered.
Citizens deserve the right to make their own decision if the plan has merit. We need “Quick Thinking” leaders with forward looking solutions. We need to stop living in the past and relying on chance. Encourage the Encinitas City Council to revisit the citywide early fire detection and alarm program. The life you save may be your own.