Operations

Fleet Beats Firestorm

May 2004, Government Fleet - Feature

by Tom Johnson

John Clements, fleet manager of San Diego County, tried to come to work October 25, 2003, but couldn’t. The worst fire in San Diego County history had burned right up to his shop. Three major fires ravaged the Southern California region: 380,000 acres burned, 2,400 homes destroyed, 16 deaths, billions of dollars in damage. Clements had to direct his staff of 69 employees from his home.All federal, state, and local government agencies became totally committed to fighting these fires. San Diego County’s 4,000-vehicle fleet grew significantly when including the number of vehicles from outside emergency agencies that supported the county during the fires. Five fuel sites pumped 29,000 gallons of fuel in five days. Maintenance support switched to 24-hour operations, provided remote fuel support for generators in pump stations, and loaned 16 technicians and mobile repair trucks to the state forestry department. Breathing masks were mandatory; road closures were everywhere. The county’s emergency operations center was inaccessible. How was the fleet management division able to provide such a high percentage of vehicle availability during the fires? Clements pinpoints two crucial areas for all fleet preparedness:
  • Preventive maintenance programs resulted in very few vehicle failures.
  • A good vehicle replacement program helped maintain a fleet of quality, properly equipped vehicles. Clements said, “We did our part in aiding the countyÕs ability to assist the citizens of San Diego County.” He added, “preparation pays off — you just never know when.”The California County Board of Supervisors named San Diego County the most efficiently run fleet operation in the state.
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