Public Safety

Board Continues Local Emergency Proclamation for Lilac Fire

Volunteers remove ash and debris from homes burned in the Lilac Fire.
Volunteers remove ash and debris from homes burned in the Lilac Fire.

The County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to continue the county-wide local emergency proclamation for the Lilac Fire due to ongoing debris and erosion control tasks as well as cost recovery efforts from state and federal agencies.

A month after the fire, County officials also updated the Board on the progress of those efforts.

The Lilac Fire began in the Bonsall area on Dec. 7 during extreme Santa Ana conditions. Supervisors ratified a proclamation of local emergency on Dec. 11.

During a presentation Tuesday, County recovery manager Amy Harbert said 113 homes were destroyed and 55 others were damaged. Two business structures were destroyed and another five damaged. Additionally, 90 other out buildings, sheds, or barns were destroyed and 18 damaged. On public property, 200 acres of brush burned in County parks.

As of Jan. 9, the projected costs to the County for Lilac Fire response and cleanup is estimated to be $3.9 million, said Holly Crawford, director of the County Office of Emergency Services. The final overall cost of the fire has not yet been calculated due to the ongoing work with cleanup and erosion control.

Crawford said that about half of that cost may be eligible for reimbursement through a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant. The grant reimburses eligible local governments for up to 75 percent of fire response costs.

The County is also requesting additional state and federal reimbursement assistance that would cover efforts beyond the initial response for erosion control, repairing damaged roads and infrastructure, debris removal, cleanup of facilities and other government costs.

Crawford noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not make direct assistance to fire survivors available, but the County’s Recovery Team is working with voluntary organizations to try to assist individuals with debris removal and other services.

The County opened a Local Assistance Center for residents just four days after the fire began and more than 269 households visited the center during the nine days it was open. The center was staffed by 30 service providers including County, state and federal agencies, and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Many of the people served had lost their homes or had their home damaged by smoke.

Crawford said the San Diego Foundation has received a little over $300,000 in donations to fund Lilac Fire Recovery which will be directed to those organizations helping Lilac Fire survivors.

Harbert said the website has been available for residents since the fire began with information and resources related to recovery and rebuilding efforts. The County also has a dedicated recovery hotline and email address for unincorporated county residents affected by the fire.

Additionally, Harbert said, the County has assigned individual liaisons to each homeowner who lost their home to help them navigate the recovery and rebuilding process.

To date, the County Department of Environmental Health has overseen the removal of over 14,500 pounds of household hazardous waste. It has also offered a one-day household hazardous waste collection event and placed disposal bins in the communities to help fire survivors with ash and debris removal. Additionally, to date, 62 of the 113 destroyed homes have been cleaned of ash and debris or are in the process of this cleanup.

The County has opened an Erosion Control Assistance Center to help private property owners by giving out free sandbags, gravel bags and fiber rolls.

Harbert said County Public Works has repaired 1,300 feet of guardrail damaged by the fire along Old Highway 395, replaced 15 road signs and posts that were damaged, and removed 15 trees that fell in public areas.

Harbert told supervisors there are fire survivors still working with their insurance companies, private contractors or volunteer groups to clean up ash and debris, and that the County will continue to work with the community through the recovery process.

Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact