County Supervisor Dianne Jacob is urging her constituents to send a "short, concise and strong message" to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) by tomorrow to help stop the impending closure of the Ramona Airport traffic control tower.
Jacob was joined by Supervisor Ron Roberts, Cal Fire and the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association at a press conference Tuesday, held in the county's Emergency Operations Center, in an effort to make the public aware of the closure.
Just hours before the conference, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to have the county's chief administrative officer send a letter to the FAA and the federal Department of Transportation to register their opposition to leaving the Ramona tower unmanned.
The news of the shutdown came to a shock to the county on March 8, when the federal government announced that the sequestration would shut down the local tower.
"This is like taking a hatchet to the budget when they should be taking a scalpel," Jacob said.
Ramona's supervisor called the control tower and its staff "critical," as evidenced by the 1995 mid-air collision, which prompted the tower being put in place.
See also: Ramona Airport Traffic Control Tower May Close Due to Sequester
The Ramona Airport is crucial for state agency Cal Fire, as it serves as their fill stations and take-off center during fires. Cal Fire Battalian Chief Ray Chaney, who works at the Ramona Airport, said the agency would continue to use the airport even if the traffic control tower was unmanned.
"Cal Fire will continue to have a presence at the airport, with or without a tower," Chaney said. "But the tower provides invaluable safety."
Supervisor Ron Roberts said the tower is especially "vital" for the upcoming fire season.
"When the rainy season ends in San Diego County, the fire season begins," he said. "The Ramona airport control tower functions as an aerial fire fighting hub, for all of San Diego County. We don't need federal political foolishness jeopardizing people's lives and property,"
According to the county supervisors, the tower operates for $500,000 a year, a figure Roberts thinks isn't significant enough to cut.
"The amount saved—half a million dollars a year—isn't worth it," he said.
Jacob asked Ramona residents and beyond to share their opposition of the closure, which is set for April 7, with the FAA. Email your comments in a "short, concise and strong message" to email@example.com.
"The board of supervisors unanimously voted in opposition of this closure," Jacob told Patch. "And now we need the public to weigh in, too."
Deadline to email those comments is by 1 p.m. Pacific Time March 13.
The Airport Traffic Control Tower in Numbers:
- Costs $500,000 to staff, annually.
- The Cal Fire Air Attack Base at the Ramona airfield responds to an average of 450 calls per year.
- The Cal Fire Air Attack Base at the Ramona airfield protects more than 1.7 million acres, including U.S. Forest Land.
- The base played a key role in fighting the 2003 and 2007 wildfires.