Home Emergency Management News EDM Friday Briefing: Legionnaires' Outbreak in NC Claims Another Victim
EDM Friday Briefing: Legionnaires' Outbreak in NC Claims Another Victim

EDM Friday Briefing: Legionnaires' Outbreak in NC Claims Another Victim

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for October 11, 2019: A swift-moving brush fire in Southern California quickly consumed 4,600 acres and forced evacuations; power shutoffs implemented by PG&E across Northern California wreak havoc and disrupt life in affected communities; multiple homes were destroyed by the Sandalwood Fire which was sparked by burning garbage; temperatures dropped 54 degrees in Denver on Wednesday as the season's first winter storm swept into the area; another death has been linked to the ongoing Legionnaires' outbreak in North Carolina; Washington State has issued an emergency ban on the sale of flavored vaping products; red flag warnings are in place in Northern and Southern California due to critical fire weather forecasts; and a FEMA mitigation program that provides buyouts for flood-prone properties is allegedly implemented by wealthier and more densely populated communities.

1) A swift-moving brush fire erupted Thursday evening in Southern California and has continued to spread rapidly. The blaze has forced the evacuations of about 1,900 people and destroyed a commercial building and multiple homes. The Saddleridge Fire broke out in Sylmar, north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley around 9:00 p.m. local time, as gusty Santa Ana winds descended upon the area. The fire has already consumed at least 4,600 acres and forced the closure of the 210 freeway in both directions between the 5 and the 118 freeways. It is at zero percent containment with forecast wind gusts of 60 mph on Friday.

2) The Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) power shutoffs in Northern California have wreaked havoc across the region, causing traffic crashes, forcing school closures and generally disrupting life for affected communities. Businesses were unable to run credit cards, lines formed outside gas stations and traffic jams resulted from non-working traffic lights. Although some customers were seeing power restored beginning on Thursday, neighboring Southern California Edison warned that high winds and critical fire weather forecasts were likely to prompt power shutoffs for residents in parts of eight counties, including Los Angeles, San Bernadino, and Ventura.

3) Multiple homes were destroyed by the Sandalwood Fire in Southern California, which began when burning trash was dumped along the roadway. The fire quickly spread through dry grasses, fueled by gusting winds of 50 mph. It traveled into a mobile home park in Calimesa, prompting multiple medical emergencies, destroying 73 residences and damaging at least 16 others. Firefighters were assisted by air tankers and helicopters that dropped water on the rapidly spreading fire.

4) Denver, Colorado, set records Wednesday when temperatures hit the low to middle 80s, then plummeted 50 degrees in 12 hours -- a total drop in temperature of 64 degrees in just one day. A strong cold front brought blustery winds and snow, dropping temperatures rapidly and setting a new record low by midnight. Record lows were likely to continue on Friday morning, with a forecast temperature of 14 degrees Fahrenheit, eight degrees lower than the record set on this date in 1946 of 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

5) A second death connected to the Legionnaires' outbreak in North Carolina has occurred. A total of 134 cases of Legionnaires' and Pontiac Fever (a milder form of the disease) have been confirmed in the ongoing outbreak, of which 88 victims have been hospitalized. Health officials believe the outbreak is linked to a hot tub display at the 2019 N.C. Mountain State Fair, held from September 6-15 at the Western North Carolina Agriculture Center in Fletcher.

6) Washington State has issued an emergency ban on the sale of flavored vaping products that began on Thursday. The ban is set to last 120 days as health officials dig into the cause of nearly 1,300 cases of vaping-related illnesses across 49 states and in Puerto Rico. Of those cases, there have been 26 deaths confirmed in 21 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is cautioning individuals to avoid the use of vaping products while the investigation is underway.

7) Red flag warnings remain in place for large regions of Northern California for Friday, including for Paradise, which was almost completely destroyed by the deadly Camp Fire in October 2018. The National Weather Service (NWS) has forecasted extreme fire weather due to very low humidity along with high and gusty winds, which will rapidly spread any new fires that start. There are also red flag warnings for a large swath of Southern California, primarily due to the start of the Santa Ana winds, which likely sparked and spread several fires that began Thursday.

8) A new study alleges that wealthier, more densely populated communities across the nation are more likely to implement the buyout of flood-prone properties. The mitigation program, which is offered to communities by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), must be applied for by local governments. Through the mitigation program, FEMA typically will pay for 75 percent of the cost of the home. However, the study suggests towns with limited resources may not be able to find or raise funding for the remaining 25 percent of the homes. That prevents their participation in the program and leaves residents trapped in at-risk properties.

 

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.