San Diego, California - For the third year in a row, the County of San Diego has won the San Diego County Taxpayers Association’s highest award: the Grand Golden Watchdog.

The County, the City of San Diego, the U.S Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps were all honored with the award during a ceremony Thursday for their mutual cooperation in fighting last month’s wildfires, the largest in the region since 2007.

The first of more than a dozen fires broke out in the North County May 13, 2014. When it was all over, the Bernardo, Cocos, Poinsettia fires and more had scorched 26,000 acres and destroyed an estimated 65 structures, among them 46 single-family homes. Private property damage is expected to exceed $29.8 million. The cost to fight the fires came to $28.5 million.

In announcing the Grand Golden Watchdog Winners, the San Diego Taxpayers Association cited the coordination among city, county, state and federal governments which “enabled firefighters, Navy and Marine Corps personnel, emergency medical service providers and police officers, to quickly suppress the fires and minimize damage to taxpayers. This multi-jurisdictional response was the finest example of mutual aid.”    

“Thanks to the creation of the County Fire Authority and the investment of more than $285 million since 2003, the County was a strong partner during the May 2014 wildfires,” said County Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob. “Also critical during the fires, was the unique partnership with the Navy and the Marine Corps, which allowed for 30 military helicopters to help with the firefighting efforts.”

An after action report presented to the County Board of Supervisors June 17 cited the many advances the County has made in emergency response efforts since the devastating 2003 and 2007 wildfires. It also outlined new challenges and how they might be addressed in what’s expected to be a very active fire season this year.

The latest Grand Golden Watchdog award is the third won by the County in the last three years. In 2013, the County was honored for a regional graffiti program which made a huge impact in catching graffiti vandals and making them pay restitution for damage.

The Taxpayers Association honored the County in 2012 for saving taxpayers nearly $1.5 billion in interest with its capital improvement program by paying mostly cash for new buildings.