Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: California Wildfires Destroy Neighborhoods

EDM Wednesday Briefing: California Wildfires Destroy Neighborhoods


Emergency and disaster management briefing for October 11, 2017: New wildfires sparked earlier this week in California claimed the lives of at least 17, President Trump signs California's disaster declaration for areas affected by numerous wildfires, Nearly 85 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power, Google issues Alert SOS for Bali over fears of imminent eruption of Mount Agung, a Utah police officer is fired for arresting a nurse who refused to draw blood from a patient, Tropical Storm Ophelia poised to become a Category 1 hurricane, many residents fleeing wildfires in California did not receive emergency alert texts or emails, and six Kentucky community banks create a fund for public-private partnerships to help finance critical infrastructure projects.

  1. At least 17 people are dead and more than 20,000 people were forced to evacuate on short notice Sunday night into Monday as a series of new wildfires ignited in Northern California, fueled by dry conditions and wind speeds of 50 mph. Included in those who evacuated were several hospitals in Santa Rosa as the swift moving wildfire rapidly approached the facilities. The firestorms quickly consumed 73,000 acres and destroyed at least 1,500 structures, with the Tubbs and Atlas fires being the most destructive of the new fires that ignited this week, which combined have consumed 52,000 acres and destroyed nearly 700 structures since they sparked.
  2. President Trump has signed California's disaster declaration for areas affected by multiple destructive wildfires releasing federal funds and aid to assist with state and local response and recovery efforts. More than 30 wildfires are burning throughout the state, with 17 new wildfires that ignited this week, including the Atlas and Tubbs fires. The largest fires were burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties, and firefighters are faced with the continued challenge of combating the blazes with forecast gusty winds of 35-40 mph on Wednesday.
  3. Puerto Rico continues to recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Maria, but at least 67 percent of cell towers are still down and nearly 85 percent of the island remains without power and the governor believes it will be at least six months before power is fully restored. Challenges in restoring power to the island include the massive $72 billion dollar debt load carried by the territory, and its location. Many companies would like to help in the restoration of power, however, they remain skeptical about engaging in business in Puerto Rico due to the heavy debt load.
  4. In an effort to assist residents and visitors to Bali as fears grow about the likely eruption of Mount Agung, Google has issued an SOS Alert on its search engine to keep people informed. The tool will provide key information to people on the Indonesian island, including maps, top stories, and information and updates from local, national, or international authorities, according to Google. The goal of the SOS Alert is to make emergency information more readily accessible for individuals to ensure their safety during natural or human-caused crises.
  5. The police officer who arrested a nurse in Utah for not drawing blood from a patient without a court order as was the law, has been fired and his supervisor demoted. Reports show that Detective Jeff Payne was fired for violating department policies when he arrested the nurse, Alex Wubbels, and the incident was caught on police body cameras which were later released to the public by Wubbels. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown noted that the incident further eroded public trust in law enforcement and demonstrated poor professional judgement by both Payne and his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, casting a shadow on the officers' ability to effectively serve the public.
  6. According to the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Ophelia, which formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday, is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane by late Wednesday or early Thursday. The storm is moving southeast at about 6 mph, has maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, and a central pressure of 996 mb. Forecasts indicate that the storm is likely to make a turn to the east-northeast by Thursday night or Friday, but poses no threat to the United States.
  7. Damage to critical infrastructure across Northern California, including at least 77 cell sites, disrupted emergency texts and alerts for residents who were impacted by the swift moving wildfires that ignited earlier this week. Many residents who signed up for Nixle, a text and email alert system used by many public safety agencies, never received the alert or email warning them of the impending wildfire danger or mandatory evacuations issued. Officials are aware of the issue and a statement issued by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services noted that the state was creating mobile communications units to help alleviate the issue.
  8. Six of Kentucky's largest community banks have joined forces to launch a fund to help support public-private partnerships (P3s) seeking to participate in critical infrastructure projects. The $150 million fund will help provide new and creative ways to finance critical infrastructure projects at the state and local level to help with the repair and replacement of water and sewer systems, roads, and bridges. The dedicated private investment fund will supply debt financing to private firms engaging in capital projects that might not be otherwise possible, helping to improve aging infrastructure systems and support growth.  

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.