Supervisors formally declare local emergency because of fires

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a local emergency proclamation stemming from three wildfires that erupted in Riverside County during last week’s Santa Ana windstorm, ensuring the county can access state and federal relief to mitigate the impact of the fires.
“The `Water,’ `Hill’ and `46′ Fires caused property damage, displacement of residents and the evacuation of medical facilities,” according to the county’s Local Emergency Declaration, issued by Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton. “Evacuation orders (were) issued for the communities of Nuevo, Jurupa Valley and surrounding areas.”
Under state law, a county’s EMD director or similarly authorized figure can designate a local emergency, but it only lasts seven days unless formally approved by the governing body for that area. The board’s declaration will enable the county to apply for state and federal assistance to cope with the fallout of the Oct. 30 fires.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has already proclaimed a state of emergency for the county and has secured Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to promote recovery efforts, according to the governor’s office.
“Our emergency personnel were stretched thin, and they’re fatigued,” county fire Chief Shawn Newman told the board. “But we’re now getting ourselves back to normal business and preparing for the next event.”
The 46 and Hill blazes were contained over the weekend, while the Water Fire was knocked down roughly four hours after it started last Wednesday morning.
The five-acre brusher, propelled by wind gusts exceeding 60 mph on the boundary separating Nuevo and Perris, prompted mandatory evacuations of dozens of homes and damaged one unoccupied structure in the 26000 block of Water Avenue. Its cause remains under investigation.
The Hill Fire erupted about 10 a.m. last Wednesday in the area of Granite Hill Drive and Pyrite Street, on the north side of the Pomona (60) Freeway, in Jurupa Valley.
At the height of the blaze, both sides of the freeway were shut down, and 2,200 residences and businesses on streets between Pyrite to the east and Country Village Road to the west were evacuated.
The Miller Progressive Care Home and the Riverside Heights Healthcare Center, as well as Granite Hill Elementary School, were included in the evacuation order. Barton said 62 specialty care patients from Riverside Heights were taken to Patriot High School, with their caregivers.
He said television images that showed them sitting in wheelchairs, seemingly stranded in a field, gave the wrong impression. They were with medical staff, waiting for non-emergency ambulances and buses to transport them.
Newman said that a bulldozer overturned battling the fire, but the driver wasn’t seriously hurt.
Two residences were damaged in the blaze, and Southern California Edison shut off electricity to a large swath of Jurupa Valley to prevent power lines pushed down by the winds from igniting additional fires.
The 500-acre brusher, which remains under investigation, was completely contained Saturday afternoon.
The 46 Fire started after a police pursuit of a stolen car ended in a field near 46th Street and Crestmore Road, just west of Flabob Airport in Jurupa Valley, during the predawn hours last Thursday.
The sedan erupted in flames in the field, and with Santa Ana winds propelling the fire, it quickly expanded, leading to the evacuation of 1,200 homes on multiple streets. Three residences sustained major damage, along with four outbuildings and two commercial structures, according to county fire officials.
“Everything was successful,” Sheriff Chad Bianco told the board. “We lost some buildings, but we were spared loss of life.”
The 330-acre blaze was contained Sunday afternoon.