The highly predictable happened. The highly prepared took care of business. When the Gibraltar fire sparked up in the pre-dawn hours of October 29, our public safety personnel were fully engaged before the sun rose over the ridge. The multi-agency and varied asset response was highly coordinated, timely, and incredibly effective. I had a chance to visit the command post that afternoon and was impressed by how quickly and efficiently all of the surrounding agencies and federal forces came together. No confusion, no bickering, no discussion of obscure protocols, just incident management. If only government could work like this all of the time …

Petroleum production and transport have been long established in our region and will be for the foreseeable future. Much of that infrastructure is aging, making another incident likely. If anywhere on the planet should possess the gold standard for response to oil spills, it should be our region. Our firefighters are experienced in responding to a multitude of disasters, including those involving hazardous materials. I propose that a command structure be formed to allow our local people to control those assets necessary to provide the immediate initial response to coastal spills and to see the disaster through to full containment. This would include the inspection of those floating assets (blue boats) anchored offshore to ensure readiness and the ability to order deployment, as well as protocols for the Coast Guard and NOAA. Financing this command structure would be money well spent by the various oil interests in our area and certainly nominal compared to what is being spent on the Refugio spill by a single company.

I believe this would be a natural extension of the mission our combined firefighting agencies already fill. The response protocols must be swift, and the equipment must be ready and functional. Our people are up to the task. Let’s give them the tools to help protect our coastline. Let’s prepare now for the highly predictable.


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