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Quail Brush Power Plant Fire Risks Worry Local Residents

From delayed firefighter response times to possibilities of gas pipeline explosions, the Save Mission Trails group looks deeper at potential fire risks.

Submitted by Save Mission Trails.org

Will our communities, homes, and our lives be protected? The City of Santee has stated it refuses to provide any emergency services to the Quail Brush Power Plant. The only response would be from San Diego, which has also opposed the project. Therefore, according to the California Energy Commission (CEC), to meet the local regulations and standards (LORS), a fire would need to be impossible, the risk zero. Really? Zero fire risk? San Diegans and East County residents know all too well, this won't be the case!  

Required vs. Actual response times for S.D. Fire Stations to the proposed plant site:

Standards Actual 7.5 minutes, single unit 14.6 minutes, station E34 10 minutes, multiple units 15.2 minutes, E39

At the October 19, 2012, CEC Public Workshop, San Diego Deputy Chief Doug Perry stated the “drawdown” of emergency response resources and extended response times by the Fire Dept. are significant. We “can’t get there as quick as CityGate rules say that we should.” He continued, "It will take longer and the fires will potentially be larger."

Perry says he won’t put his people at risk if the plant itself has a fire. This is understandable due to high voltage and other dangerous issues. SDGE would have to come first and de-energize the plant. Perry notes that this will take awhile as in the recent case of fire in a Kearny Mesa facility. The fires burned for nearly three hours before being considered safe for fire crews to enter and do their job.

The applicant CoGentrix said that to bridge this time gap, they will create a “shelter in place” with breathing apparatus for the workers. Perry agreed it could be safer to keep the workers in the structure and let a wildlands fire go around it. SMT volunteer Sonja Ramos, who lives close to the proposed site, noted this shelter will be of no help to her and other local residents, though.

The cul-de-sac of the cul-de-sac

At the CEC meeting, the public learned that CalFire and US Forest Service would not be dispatched until it was considered a 3rd or 4th alarm fire and only if the fire is on wildland (not within the plant facility). Perry said that in the San Diego area, we don’t always get the resources we need.

“We’re the cul-de-sac of the state,” he said.

Yes, and many of us live in the cul-de-sac of a neighborhood with only one escape route. About 1,000 residents in three townhome/condo complexes live in the cul-de-sac area near Bushy Hill/Simeon Drive less than a mile southwest.  It’s unlikely residents will be able to effectively evacuate when there is only one escape route.

What if there is a natural gas explosion at the site…or another Santa Ana-wind driven fire like those of 2003 and 2007?  Santa Ana conditions are all-too-common in San Diego.

Going up in smoke

A homeowner less than a mile south of the power plant site has been denied insurance on her condo by both Ameriprise and the Automobile Club (Triple A). She called Ameriprise to get specifics about her denial and was told, “It’s because of being in a fire zone." Ameriprise utilizes "risk meter.com" (a member site used by insurance companies to determine insurance risk) and Google Maps. The company told her the area is extremely high risk, and that underwriters would not insure her condo or any other properties within 500 feet of a fire zone. Another homeowner living near Medina St. east of the proposed plant told SMT, "My husband and I were denied home insurance by Wawanesa Insurance Group due to the fire zone at Mission Trails Regional Park."

So, if homeowners can't get insurance due to proximity to a designated fire zone, why should a gas-powered plant covering 11+ acres within this zone get a green light? And how will a gas power plant impact the residents of the surrounding area? Residents worry about insurance coverage and rate increases compounding property value loss.

Unusual and fierce

San Diego is known for its unusual and fierce wildlfire conditions. Santa Ana conditions produce winds blowing sometimes over 100 mph. Once started, fires are difficult if not impossible to stop in winds more than 25 mph, and fires are commonly blown up and down hillsides. The result is very fast spreading fires that typically get out of control quickly. One good spark and we're all up in smoke.

Additionally, brush fires in and along Mission Trails and East Elliott Open Space are common, especially along Highway 52. Locals are used to seeing a few every year, with many started from car sparks or cigarettes thrown out car windows.

At the workshop, the applicant and the CEC tried to assure us that we are safe from fires and that fires in these types of power plants are rare. Meanwhile, CEC staff recommended that CoGentrix hire and train their own in-house fire brigade and have an onsite EMT. Our reply: We won’t take this risk.

Just recently in the news: “A natural gas power plant at Miramar remained offline this week after a weekend fire. Plant operator NRG Energy still is evaluating when its generator may return to service, said company spokeswoman Lori Neuman. An adjacent power plant run by San Diego Gas & Electric briefly had its fuel supply cut off as a result of the fire. The blaze broke out Saturday at about 6:15 p.m. at the plant on Consolidated Way north of the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Flames soared 30 feet into the air.”

CEC Fire Safety Expert says there is no risk of fires from the pipeline due to strict Federal regulations of new pipelines. Here's a list of some pipeline accidents resulting in fires. We’re sure the folks living near the San Bruno gas power plant explosion in 2010 had also been reassured that there was no danger.

Read more about the Quail Brush project

rudy reyes December 12, 2012 at 04:07 PM
This is exactly why i became a intervenor in this project! As a burn survivor from the 2003 fires i had to make light of this threat to the community. The project site burned in the 2003 fires and is a fire hazard area. I got the opportunity to meet the families of the San Bruno fires personally, I was the first Burn survivor they meet at support group to give psych help. We as a community need stop this project NOW, please help? Support the Save Mission Trails.org group as they are trying to save us!
TMcC December 12, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Our homes/schools/Hwy 52 are the nearest neighbors to the proposed QB natural gas power plant. To whom is such great risk to human life so worthwhile? Profiteers. JUST YESTERDAY: DEC 11, 2012 Sissonville, West Virginia: Explosion From Gas Line Burns Interstate 77 And Homes (PHOTOS) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/sissonville-west-virginia-explosion_n_2279577.html Read the excellent Comments: -“You know what doesn't explode? Water, wind, and solar. Feel free to pull your head out from the nether regions at any point Energy Counsel.... “ -“West Virginia Democrat said the National Transportation Safety Board is launching a team "imminently" to investigate. I can save them a lot of wasted time and money. As a corrosion engineer I see this problem all the time. . . .expertise is going away as senior corrosion engineers retire. Plus, the Highway Departments have zero ability to check or even understand what passes under their highways, or over the roads from other utilities. -“. . Aging infrastructure, and fewer experienced long term utility workers and engineers who know what happens when you skirt quality. There was a huge push in my home state to privatize public utilities, they paid for it in the long run with costly band aid repairs that ended up on the tax payers. The private companies escaped without any liability.. . .. Austerity and corporatism kills. “
TMcC December 12, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Step into the ring, join the good fight fight, YOUR voice adds weight to the community argument against this careless, unneeded, corporate risk to our lives & welfare. The CPUC may finalize their proposed decision that Quail Brush power plant is NOT needed on or before DEC 20th (in 8 DAYS only). If you haven't signed this letter - do it now--don't waste a minute & get 20 others to do the same! https://secure.sierraclub.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=9963 Eyewitness HORROR from a commuter on that West Virginia highway: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Latest-News-Wires/2012/1212/West-Virginia-natural-gas-explosion-wipes-out-homes-and-I-77-video
Santee Homeowner December 12, 2012 at 10:18 PM
This power plant is one more gov't / corporate crony boondoggle, that we must stop, imagine what your utility bill will look like paying $600 million for this gas power plant at the gateway into Santee, the Sunrise PowerLink and all the new windfarms and solar farms, $Billions wait for the rate hikes they are coming and they will be big.
TMcC December 12, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I just signed the letter. Please take 2 minutes to oppose QB TODAY! The CPUC should hear from every one of us ASAP, before their decision on or about Dec 20th: https://secure.sierraclub.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=9963 Come on, fighting doesn't get any easier. Make it YOUR PERSONAL CHALLENGE or campaign to get 20 others to sign too. We can win this, we must!
Margie Logue December 12, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Cogentrix or Quail-Brush LLT as it is named now, still didn;'t address the oil storage tanks. They are not even on the map for the fire zone. I don't know about you, but 26,000 (potential) gals of oil in a wildfire scares me. When I addressed the issue last time the CEC was at Grossmont College, some people didn't even know that oil was to be stored on site. The answer I got from Cogentrix was the oil is in fire proof containers so no explosion can happen and the oil is stored in airtight containers so no air = no fire. Today's article on cnsnews.com titled "West Virginia gas line blast a reminder of widespread risk" by John Raby and Vicki Smith states "from 2007 - 2011 pipeline accidents nationwide killed 21 workers and 47 other people, resulting in nearly $2.6 billion in property damage, according to the PHMSA ( The US Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) Wasn't it the owners of the Titanic that said it couldn't sink. They were so sure they didn't put enough lifeboats on it. None of them drowned. No one in Cogentrix even lives in this state, so it is easy to say don't worry. A lot harder not to do.
Retha Knight December 13, 2012 at 06:41 PM
The risk is too high to put a Natural Gas Power Plant on the border of Santee, next to West Hills High School, Little League Baseball Fields, across from MTRP's Equestrian Center and close to residential housing that is located within 1000 feet of the proposed project site and 500 feet of a project linear feature (e.g. pipeline).! The pipeline will also connect to the plant on Mast Blvd in front of West Hills High School and the Ball Fields. Natural gas explosions occur far too often and only receive a one minute spot of news coverage if at all. Accidents do happen! This natural gas power plant was under construction when it happened. Check out this video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZXyrYKlZuM&feature=youtube
Retha Knight December 13, 2012 at 06:43 PM
CAL FIRE Local Responsibility Area Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/quailbrush/documents/applicant/2012-11-30_Applicants_Fire_Behavior_Analysis_Report_and_Fire_Protection_Plan_TN-68718.pdf
Retha Knight December 13, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Our WEST HILLS HIGH SCHOOL students deserve your protection! How could anyone in our local communities fail to take action and not write a letter in opposition to the CEC regarding the proposed Quail Brush Power Plant that Cogentrix wants to build just a few hundred yards away from WEST HILLS HIGH! You CAN'T MITIGATE AWAY THE SAFETY OF OUR CHILDREN and You CAN’T MITIGATE the devastating air pollution impacts this QBGP will have on students and teachers there. Do you think mitigation dollars and promises will take away the irreversible health effects that will befall these young students! Combine the projected 200 - 500 tons of TOXIC air pollutants Quail Brush will add with all the Carbon Monoxide, Methane and other Toxic pollution West Hills High School students already experiance the from Hwy 52/125 and the landfill!
Retha Knight December 13, 2012 at 07:09 PM
The west end of Santee by the Kumaay Lake Campground, off Father Junipero Sierra Trail is "UNMITIGABLE". If an explosion were to occur at 2:00 AM in Santa Ana conditions the approximately 1000 souls in this blocked in area could not be evacuated or protected efficiently.
Retha Knight December 13, 2012 at 07:11 PM
How quickly could West Hills High School student be safely evacuated?
Retha Knight December 13, 2012 at 07:15 PM
My question is who gets evacuated first, over 2000 students and over a hundreds of staff at West Hills High School or the the 1000's blocked in at Sunset Greens, Highland Trails and the Military housing? Who decides? and When?
Retha Knight December 13, 2012 at 08:01 PM
The Cogentrix lobbyist are probably very busy especially now that they have their “new design” with their two clusters of the ELEVEN 70 foot smokestacks! Well guess what? KNOWLEDGE IS TRULY POWER! The END to agency and public comments to the CEC is quickly approaching! Write a short letter of opposition if you truly care about the Health and quality of life of of our children and your community. Go to: SaveMissionTrails.org
just my opinion December 14, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Is the death of many innocent people less important that an power plant in an area that can't be controlled in case of an accidental fire that can't be put out in time? Think about that???????????
TMcC December 14, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Dear neighbors: Stand up and stop the TRAMPLING by Cogentrix. Since KNOWLEDGE & FACTS show that there is NO need for the "QB Generation Project"--who shall have POWER: the greedy corporatists or the local advocates/families/individuals that have selflessly, relentlessly and effectively defended this community and sanctity of life? Will Cogentrix honor their advertised claim---"Knowledge is Power"--if only to save their own faces (oh wait, they're from far off places and wouldn't be showing their faces around here after plundering our area for evermore.) NON-NEED has been established & reported by experts that are involved in this CEC case. A proposed decision by the CPUC may deny the claim for "need" as soon as Dec 20th. You can help make sure they do and you should ASAP. With the KNOWLEDGE we have, let's use our collective POWER. Please sign ASAP. https://secure.sierraclub.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=9963 Go to http://www.savemissiontrails.org to sign 2 more, 1) to the CPUC & 2) to Gov Brown. Send 1 more letter to the CEC from SMT's website (Email Activism tab). Wish Mr. Solorio & staff Happy Holidays---we all need one! Stay current with info from that long-time, avid defender of our city's unique, beautiful surrounding open spaces and an intervenor in this QB fight: http://www.facebook.com/PreserveWildSantee LET'S WIN THIS!
Stephen Houlahan December 14, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Help SaveMissionTrails.org end Cogentrix threat once and for all! Let the CPUC know that our community in united against the Quail Brush Power Plant. Go to http://www.savemissiontrail.org and submit your letter of opposition to the CPUC today.
Margie Logue December 17, 2012 at 04:01 AM
The vote of the San Diego City Council and the Planning Commission to deny rezoning in order to build Quail-Brush reaffirmed my faith in city government. The CPUC and CEC are in Sacramento. Hopefully with all the disasters around power plants and the evolution of knowledge about the toxic effects of fossil fuel gases, this state will make the right decision to protect its people and reject Quail-Brush.
Margie Logue December 17, 2012 at 04:01 AM
The vote of the San Diego City Council and the Planning Commission to deny rezoning in order to build Quail-Brush reaffirmed my faith in city government. The CPUC and CEC are in Sacramento. Hopefully with all the disasters around power plants and the evolution of knowledge about the toxic effects of fossil fuel gases, this state will make the right decision to protect its people and reject Quail-Brush.
TMcC December 17, 2012 at 05:05 AM
People spoke out, local officials paid heed, experts/organizations joined this good fight! Will Sacramento hear us NOW? Not unless we stand & speak as we have before! Sign the petition (2 mins) & email 2 letters ASAP (before DEC 20th!). To do this, go here & then get 5 others to do the same: http://savemissiontrails.org/ Only our united force for the good of our community & families will prevail!
Patty Kay Mooney December 19, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Local residents are right to be worried. Many of us can remember skies grey with smoke, walls of flames marching up Mission Trails, and the trauma of evacuating from our homes. Some of us have experienced the emptiness of lost home and possessions. I guess it's pretty easy for someone from North Carolina to come to San Diego and push their greedy agenda on us. But we will have none of it! No to the Quail Brush Power Plant. A resounding NO.

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