By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
In June, as the Adobe Falls Fire threatened her home and she prepared to evacuate, Jackie O’Conner noticed something strange happening on the slope behind her house.
“Before I left there was a weed on fire down my slope and I actually saw a fireman down on one knee with a little hand shovel digging a trench around this plant so it would stop the fire,” she said.
The image of a firefighter battling a blaze with a simple garden tool is one that stuck with her, and one she reminds herself about as chair of the Friends of Del Cerro (FODC), which began a fundraising effort to purchase proper equipment to fight brush fires for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
The Adobe Falls Fire burned up several acres of brush in the canyon behind Del Cerro, but not a single home burned because of the extraordinary air and ground effort by local fire agencies. FODC initially thanked the firefighters by delivering thank you and gift cards to Station 31.
“But then we realized that it was a bigger thank you that we needed to give,” said FODC vice chair Glenn Thomas.
To help figure out the best way to thank the firefighters, FODC enlisted Don Teemsma, a Del Cerro native who is on the board of the San Diego Fire and Rescue Foundation.
“It’s personal as a resident,” Teemsma said of his effort in thanking the firefighters. “And of course as a board member of the Foundation one of my passions is to see what I can do for the needs of the fire department.”
What the fire department needs, and what the FODC is supplying as a thank you for firefighting effort that saved their homes, is $20,000 worth of brush fighting tools to stock its 75 trucks — and the effort is well on its way. So far, the group has raised $16,000, which included a generous $10,000 donation right off the bat from the San Diego Padres.
On Sept. 4, FODC presented a check for $1,500 to San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation. The fundraising effort also got another boost of $2,500 from SDSU, delivered in person by SDSU President Adela de la Torre. The visit by de la Torre was welcomed by FODC because the Adobe Falls area has been a bit of contention between residents and SDSU. The college owns a large portion of the land and over the years has done little to take care of it, resulting in graffiti and other unwanted behavior in the area. The new president wants to change that.
“It is very critical for us to work in partnership. I look forward to work in a productive way with the community and I see a lot of opportunities here” de la Torre said, adding that she is interested in exploring what can be done with the Adobe Falls property involving students and faculty. Some ideas that have been brought up include sustainability projects like a community garden. “We have students that are interested in nutrition, interested in urban gardening, so we have a lot of students and faculty that that land has a lot of potential for.”
The Sept. 4 check presentation was also attended by San Diego Fire-rescue Department deputy fire chief Kelly Zombo who expressed his gratitude for the effort to supply the brush fighting equipment.
“It’s tough times and throwing new things on top of an already stretched budget is not easy to do and these tools are going to give us the ability to do the job we need to do on these larger incidents,” he said. “Right now, our fire engines come with a square-tipped shovel and a round tipped-shovel, certainly not the types of tool you need to be using for this type of work. This grant will give our troops the tools that they desperately need to do this work safely and effectively and get the job done.”
— Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.