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El Niño is expected to drop a large amount of precipitation on our region this winter. While the County is preparing and residents have been given instructions on what they should do to get ready, people that live in areas that have burned recently are presented with unique challenges.
Normally, vegetation absorbs rain, but after a wildfire, the charred ground where that vegetation has been burned away creates a loss of soil strength and can no longer easily absorb rainwater, increasing the risk of flooding and mudflows for several years. Properties directly affected by fires, and those located downstream of burn areas, are most at risk.
Post-fire landslide hazards include fast-moving and highly destructive debris flows. Post-fire debris flows are particularly hazardous because they can occur with little warning, can exert great impulsive loads on objects in their paths, can strip vegetation, block drainage ways, damage structures, and endanger human life. Wildfires could potentially result in the destabilization of pre-existing deep-seated landslides over long time periods.
The best preparation for possible flooding is to plan ahead. The Ready!Set!Go! Flood Preparation brochure will show you some of the things you can do to protect your home, property and family. You’ll find information about how to prepare for wet weather, things like cleaning out rain gutters and storm drains, where you can sign up for emergency alerts, fire stations that have sandbags available, and what you should have in an emergency kit. There is also specific information for areas that have recently been burned by wildfire.
Sandbags can best be used to help protect doorways if a waterproof layer like heavy plastic or waterproof canvas is placed behind them. If possible, secure it to the door frame. Stack the sandbags in a pyramid formation and wrap the plastic up and over the top. Keep in mind, sandbags DO NOT guarantee a water-tight seal, but properly placed sandbags can help redirect water, mud and debris away from your home.
Some other helpful resources:
- To find your closest sandbag location and other information on storm preparation check SBCoFire’s website at www.sbcfire.org.
- Check the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov to see current and upcoming weather events.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s El Niño Portal has regular El Niño forecast updates, www.elnino.noaa.gov.
Today Caltrans hosted a multi-agency press conference regarding El Niño; focusing on what to expect, how to be prepared and what public safety agencies are doing to be prepared.
Guest speaker, San Bernardino County Fire Assistant Chief Don Trapp, warned citizens that each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather related hazard; siting already this year we have seen multiple major flooding and mudslide events. In mid-October, flooding and mud flows trapped hundreds of motorists in adjacent counties and forced the temporary closure of the I-5 freeway through the Tehachapi Mountains. In early September a couple on a first date got caught in a flash flood at Mill Creek crossing in Forest Falls. While she was able to make it to shore, he did not make it out of the water alive.
Chief Trapp went on to state the main cause of so many injuries and deaths is due to people underestimating the force and power of water. More than half of all flood related deaths result from vehicles being swept downstream.
“Heavy rainfall can cause normally dry washes and riverbeds to become raging torrents in a very short amount of time,” Chief Trapp said. “Never cross a road that you can’t see due to it being covered by water. It only takes 2 feet of flowing water to move a vehicle. It is always safest to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” when roads are flooded. If you are caught in swift water and your vehicle stalls, and there is no water coming into the vehicle, stay put and call for help. Do not try to exit your vehicle, as the water flows swiftly and can sweep you away.”
Rescue 72 and Swift Water Rescue 72 were on hand to exhibit specialized equipment used to perform a swift-water rescue. Nearly all of County Fire’s first-response equipment is equipped with swift-water rescue gear, which includes dry-suits, floating ropes, personal flotation devices, and other rescue equipment. All San Bernardino County firefighters receive basic swift-water rescue training, and well over 100 firefighters are trained in advanced swift-water rescue skills.
San Bernardino County Fire reminds residents to download and use the free Ready!Set!Go! Flood Preparation brochure on our website at www.sbcfire.og. In it you will find information about what to do before, during and after a flooding event.
The best preparation for possible flooding is to plan ahead. The Ready!Set!Go! brochure will show you some of the things you can do to protect your home, property and family. There are three simple steps you can take to help protect your home from floodwaters and debris: Ready, Set, and Go!
Be Ready. In the brochure you’ll find information about how to prepare for wet weather, things like cleaning out rain gutters and storm drains, where you can sign up for emergency alerts, fire stations that have sandbags available, and what you should have in an emergency kit. There is also specific information for areas that have recently been burned by wildfire.
Get Set. When heavy rain has been forecast – or when heavy, steady rain is falling – monitor the news media, websites and social media sites for updated weather conditions. The phrasing meteorologists use is important; a Flood Watch means flooding is possible in your area, Flood Warning means flooding in your area is already occurring or is imminent, and Flash Flood is sudden violent flooding. Flash floods often come up quickly during heavy rain.
Practice “situational awareness.” Know and understand what is going on around you so that if conditions worsen you can take the necessary actions to protect your home and family. Being ready for any sort of flooding is important.
Go when you’re told. If flooding occurs, you are safest staying in your home if it is not being affected by floodwaters, mud or debris. If asked to evacuate, do so immediately and proceed to higher ground or an established shelter. If the water rises suddenly and you cannot evacuate, move to the second floor or, if necessary, the roof.
If you’re asked to leave, evacuate to higher ground taking your emergency kit and valuables. Don’t forget medications and important documents! Pay attention to your surroundings; look for swift moving water, downed power lines, and debris.
Get your Ready!Set!Go! Flood Preparation brochure and set up a plan now. Having one and practicing it can save you and your family when an emergency comes. Get yours at www.sbcfire.org. You can also obtain a list of fire stations that have free sand and sandbags.
Other helpful resources:
- An El Niño resources web page for residents to obtain information on storm preparation is available at www.sbcounty.gov/main/elnino.asp
- To find your closest sandbag location, check SBCoFire’s website at www.sbcfire.org
- Check the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov to see current and upcoming weather events
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s El Niño Portal has regular El Niño forecast updates, www.elnino.noaa.gov
Read more about the news conference here with information from Caltrans.
Clearing flood control channels, stockpiling sandbags and holding public outreach meetings in flood-prone areas are just a few things County departments are doing to prepare for El Niño storms this fall and winter.
The Board of Supervisors heard a special presentation today from County staff about what is being done throughout the county to prepare for El Niño.
“The County is doing everything possible to be prepared for heavy rains,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman James Ramos. “Protecting the public is our highest priority. But we are urging the public to do everything they can to protect themselves, their families and their homes. Surviving El Niño will be a team effort.”
The County Office of Emergency Services is working in conjunction with the Department of Public Works, the Sheriff’s Department, County Fire, and Special Districts – along with local, regional and state partners – to make sure all safety issues throughout the county are being addressed. Risks of flooding and mudslides are higher in areas that have recently experienced wildfires.
Flood control channels and culvert crossings are being cleared in anticipation of heavy rains and advance teams are advising homeless encampments to relocate. More than 200,000 sandbags are being stockpiled and inmate hand crews have been trained in sandbagging, flood fight techniques and debris removal. Additional weather stations were added throughout the county and the real-time rain gauge alert system is being updated. Sheriff’s deputies and County firefighters are practicing procedures for swift water rescue training.
Public outreach meetings have been held in Lake Arrowhead, Yucaipa and Victorville to update residents on the latest El Niño forecast and what County departments are doing to prepare. Residents were also offered flood preparation materials. More public meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the Yucca Valley Community Center, 57090 Twentynine Palms Highway in Yucca Valley and at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, 12505 Cultural Center Drive in Rancho Cucamonga. A meeting time and date for the San Antonio Heights/Mt. Baldy area will be announced soon.
An El Niño resources web page for residents to obtain information on storm preparation is available at http://www.sbcounty.gov/main/elnino.asp.
The San Bernardino County Fire Department Office of Emergency Services will host a series of public awareness meetings beginning tonight regarding this winter’s expected El Niño storm system.
The first meeting will be held Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m. at Victorville City Hall, 14343 Civic Drive.
Meetings will also be held on:
– Monday, Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yucca Valley Community Center, 57090 Twentynine Palms Highway in Yucca Valley
– Thursday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center, 12505 Cultural Center Drive in Rancho Cucamonga
The public is strongly encouraged to attend. The best way to get prepared is to get informed. The first 50 attendees will receive a personal disaster preparedness kit from California Volunteers.
In its most recent El Niño Diagnostic Discussion, the National Weather Service along with the federal Climate
Prediction Center stated “there is an approximately 95 percent chance” that El Niño will continue through the winter
and begin to weaken in the spring.
After four years of drought, our ground is so dry and hard that it cannot absorb enough water when we do get
rain, which leads to dangerous flooding situations. Risks are higher for areas that have experienced wildfires
recently, specifically the risk of mudslides. According to the US Geological Survey, “post-fire landslide hazards
include fast-moving, highly destructive debris flows that can occur in the years immediately after wildfires in
response to high intensity rainfall events.”
Already this year we have seen multiple major flooding and mudslide events. In mid-October, flooding and mud
flows trapped hundreds of motorists in adjacent counties and forced the temporary closure of Interstate 5
through the Tehachapi Mountains. In early September, a couple on a first date got caught in a flash flood at Mill
Creek crossing in Forest Falls. While she was able to make it to shore, he did not make it out of the water alive.
In August, flash flooding in Riverside County washed out a bridge on Interstate 10.
San Bernardino County Fire Office of Emergency Services, the National Weather Service, San Bernardino County Public Works, and the state Department of Water Resources will update you on the latest El Niño forecast and how local
government is preparing. They will also provide flood preparation materials for residents.
On Sept. 2, San Bernardino County Fire Office of Emergency Services (OES) was awarded the California Emergency Services Association– Southern Chapter’s Silver Award for the SBCOA WebEOC – “Creating a Culture of Connectivity.” This award is presented to an organization, agency, or individual in the public, private and non-profit sector who have demonstrated exceptional efforts in the field of emergency preparedness, emergency services, or emergency response.
OES initially developed the San Bernardino County Operational Area (SBCOA) WebEOC Program to provide information sharing among county departments in the event of a local emergency. The initial goal was to utilize WebEOC as a vehicle for critical information collection from the Operational Area.
Over time SBCOA WebEOC has evolved into an Operational Area “Culture of Connectivity”. During activations SBCOA WebEOC has expanded into OA daily operations. It has been recognized as a “California-Centric” disaster communication model, reflective of Standardized Emergency Management System and a template for critical OA reporting up to CalOES via CalEOC.
SBCOA activates the OA EOC on average seven times per year. As a result, over 40 county departments with disaster roles are familiar with WebEOC as an incident management tool. In addition, WebEOC has become an integrated “daily operations tool” for OES emergency management.
To improve disaster communications and to explore the expansion of WebEOC for integrated “daily use” information management OES has formed a multi-disciplinary OA WebEOC Advisory Committee, which includes critical stakeholders such as the County Administrative Office, Public Health, Public Works, Human Services and the Communications Joint Powers Association. This collaboration greatly increases use during EOC Activations and likewise increases the overall value and sustainability of the WebEOC Program. The end result is a proven communications model and the embodiment of the San Bernardino County Fire OES Mission: “Through leadership and guidance, strengthen countywide emergency management capabilities…”
Drone operators have been asked repeatedly not to fly their aircraft during wildfires. But at crucial moments in each of the wildfires that have broken out in San Bernardino County so far this year, fire-fighting air tankers had to be diverted away from their targets because of the presence of small airborne hobby drones.
The Board of Supervisors decided asking is no longer enough and this week created a $75,000 reward fund for the arrest and conviction of anyone who flew any remote control-operated aircraft and interfered with fire-fighting aircraft during the recent Lake, Mill 2, and North fires.
“Because fire-fighting planes could not be used, those fires spread faster and further,” Board of Supervisors Chairman James Ramos said during a news conference today.
“In the most recent fire, the North Fire, we saw cars and trucks burning on the freeway, we saw homes burn, and we saw families running for their lives,” Chairman Ramos said. “We want to know who was flying drones, and we want them punished. Someone knows who they are, and there is $75,000 waiting for them.”
Sheriff John McMahon said his department will actively pursue drone operators in addition to its other vital duties during wildfires. And District Attorney Mike Ramos warned drone operators that they could and would be prosecuted for murder if their drones led to the death of a fire-fighting flight crew or anyone on the ground.
Those with information on anyone who flew drones during those fires are urged to call WeTip at 1-800-78-CRIME. Callers can remain anonymous.
Up to $25,000 is available for each of the three fires. The District Attorney will ultimately determine who qualifies for the reward money and for how much.
Low-flying air tankers cannot share the sky with drones because the small aircraft can be sucked into jet engines, causing the engines to fail and the planes to crash.
Interfering with fire-fighting operations is a criminal offense, and District Attorney Ramos said there are several criminal statutes prosecutors can employ to bring drone operators to justice. State and federal lawmakers are in the process of creating new laws aimed specifically at those who fly drones during wildfires.
Due to dangerous fire conditions and extremely low vegetation fuel moistures throughout the region, the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District, along with our partners at Rancho Cucamonga Fire Protection District, will be issuing a closure order for the North Etiwanda Preserve, effective at sunset Friday, July 3, 2015, and ending at 6 a.m. on Monday, July 6, 2015. This order is pursuant to Section 11 of the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District Ordinance and the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Protection District Ordinance FD-054.
This closure order restricts the public’s access to the North Etiwanda Preserve in an effort to help prevent the potential ignition of a wildfire that could be capable of damaging and/or destroying natural resources and historical areas, while providing the utmost in public safety. Signs will be posted at the all entry points to the Preserve. Failure to comply with this order may result in a fine of $1,000.
The North Etiwanda Preserve is located at the north end of Etiwanda Avenue and north of Redcliff Drive in Rancho Cucamonga. A map of the closure area can be located at http://sbcfire.org/news_releases/default.aspx under latest news.
Independence Day celebrates the birth of our nation and gives us much to celebrate, but fireworks can be dangerous and should not be treated as toys. They cause blindness, maiming and even death when misused. Fireworks cause more fires on the Fourth of July than all other causes combined.
In California all fireworks that explode, shoot into the air or move along the ground are officially called “dangerous” and are illegal to possess anywhere in the state.
In unincorporated San Bernardino County possession of any fireworks is illegal. Fire and law enforcement officials will confiscate any fireworks and issue citations to the offender. If misused fireworks cause a fire, the responsible persons are likely to face criminal charges and liability for damages.
San Bernardino County Cities That Allow “Safe and Sane” Fireworks
Adelanto, Chino, Colton and Rialto, as well as specific locations in Fontana, Grand Terrace, and San Bernardino. Please call the fire departments in these cities for more information.
If you’re thinking about using fireworks this July 4th, please keep these safety tips in mind:
Consider alternatives. For example, you can watch spectacular fireworks safely at a
- Don’t allow children to use fireworks – even “Safe and Sane” ones – without adult supervision. Even “Safe and Sane” sparklers can ignite clothing easily.
- Always read and follow label directions.
- Always have water (garden hose/bucket) and a fire extinguisher within arm’s reach.
- Always place fireworks on a firm, non-combustible surface before lighting.
- Never alter fireworks.
- Never re-light “dud” fireworks.
- Never attempt to make your own. Leave the making of fireworks to the experts.
- Never point, throw or mishandle fireworks.
Fire officials will be issuing citations for the illegal use of fireworks, with fines up to $1,250 for the first offense. Property owners may be cited if they allow fireworks to be possessed, stored or used on their property.
Due to the severe fire season, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and County Fire encourage residents to partake in a locally sponsored 4th of July celebration and leave the firework displays to the experts.
To report a fire emergency: 9-1-1 Fire dispatch (non-emergency): (909) 356-3805
Have a SAFE celebration!
On Tuesday, the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) produced a YouTube video about the San Bernardino County Inmate Fire Crew program because it received a 2014 CSAC Challenge Award last year and is considered a best practice in the state. The County Sheriff and County Fire departments work together to identify and train inmates to assist County Fire in fighting wildfires.
The Inmate Fire crews are available to respond to all types of emergencies, including wildfires, floods, search and rescue, and earthquakes. The crews are also busy with conservation and community service work projects, including brush abatement and wood chipping. Each inmate must pass a four-week training course that consists of classroom work. Inmates must also complete rigorous physical fitness training. Job placement for graduates in the landscaping and construction industries is also helping to reduce recidivism.
This program is an example of how Government Works.
Supervising Hazardous Materials Specialist Kristen Riegel with the County’s Office of the Fire Marshal was honored Thursday night for her role in a project that led to a reduction in fees for many county businesses.
Riegel was recognized during the Inland Empire Economic Partnership’s Second Annual Red Tape to Red Carpet Awards Reception as the runner up in the Leadership Award for Public Service Category. The IEEP’s mission includes improving the overall quality of life in the Inland Empire through education, transportation, health care, communication, and raising the standard of living in the region.
Riegel was recognized for leading a team of Hazardous Materials Specialists in completely revamping the Fire Marshal’s fee structure. One new component of the fee structure was based on risk. As a result, approximately 20 percent of regulated businesses in San Bernardino County received a reduction in their fees because they generate low amounts of toxic waste while storing small numbers of hazardous materials. These small businesses experienced the most economic benefit.
Riegel’s efforts embody the County’s job of creating a county in which those who reside and invest can prosper and achieve well-being and the Countywide Vision’s goal of establishing San Bernardino County as a model in the state where local government, regulatory agencies and communities are truly business-friendly.