Fire

Kern County Fire Department firefighters battle a blaze at a home on South Sunset Street in Ridgecrest following a series of temblors on Thursday. KCFD and other agencies reported several other incidents in the area.

RIDGECREST – Mayor Peggy Breeden declared a state of emergency for the city of Ridgecrest following a series of tremors that rocked the area Thursday, the largest being a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit Ridgecrest at about 10:33 a.m.

The first foreshock hit at around 10:02 a.m. at a 4.2 magnitude on the Richter scale, followed by a smaller 2.5 magnitude aftershock.

At 10:33 a.m., the main earthquake hit, shaking Ridgecrest, the Indian Wells Valley and Searles Valley with a 6.4 magnitude that occurred in Searles Valley, according to US. Geographical Survey reports.

It lasted for five seconds and caused significant damage.

Ridgecrest Police Chief McLaughlin initially told the Daily Independent following the 6.4 earthquake that the local wastewater plant had pipes come loose, but that these were able to be fixed, so wastewater services are reportedly working.

Power was reported out in sections of the city.

Throughout the day, dozens of other aftershocks hit, some as large as the initial foreshock, others more minor. The USGS has warned more are aftershocks are likely to continue.

Homes were damaged, while a house on South Sunland Street caught on fire, with 50 percent of the structure saved by a combined force of Kern County Fire Department, China Lake Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management and others.

The Indian Wells Valley Water District put any notions of unsafe water conditions to rest when it posted its own update

“There is no truth to the rumor being spread that the water in Ridgecrest is unsafe to drink. The system is intact and the water is safe to drink. The water system experienced only very minor damage as a result of this morning’s earthquake,” the water district posted. “Damage is limited to six air-release valves, most along Bowman Road, and one of the Gateway booster pumps. We do have system redundancy so there is no impact from that. We are receiving and responding to calls from customers requesting water shutoffs due to broken cooler lines and water heater lines. We hope you and your loved ones are safe.”

Calls came in about downed power lines, possible gas leak and vegetation fires. State Route 178 in Searles Valley was shown to have sustained damage as a large crack ran through a section of the road.

No serious injuries were reported as a result of the series of tremors.

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital was evacuated following the earthquake. During the initial incident, hospital staff and firefighters set up shade structures and cots to help shelter people from the sweltering heat.

Kern County Fire Battalion Chief Jason Schillinger, the unified incident commander, said at a 3 p.m. news conference on Thursday that at least 15patients were evacuated and other area hospitals, including Palmdale and Lancaster.

RRH CEO Jim Suver told press at a media briefing Thursday afternoon that five helicopters initially transported people from the area.

“We made the decision based out of an abundance of caution,” Suver said. He said the hospital had 25 patients that needed to be transferred to other facilities.

RRH also set up outdoor triage tents so that medical staff could assess walk-up peoples’ injuries “to determine whether they need to be transported or treated and released,” Suver said.

He said RRH initially was thought to sustain plumbing issues.

“However, since this is the first earthquake for the new tower, we want our seismic engineers to check out the building,” Suver said.

He said that the hospital staff did a fantastic job in evacuating the hospital.

“Fortunately none of the patients were on ventilators because that would have complicated things,” he told reporters.

Ridgecrest Regional Hospital updated its status on Facebook that food and drinks had come in from Starbucks and McDonalds, as well as the hospital’s Mountain View Cafe, and that Big 5 contributed to the donation of “easy-ups” structures to shield triage patients from the harsh summer heat.

KCFD had engineers on the scene to evaluate the structural integrity of the hospital.

“We have plenty of resources on this side of the 395 and we have a lot of resources and will be going through the communities,” Schillinger said.

Schillinger also said that numerous emergency response crews are on scene or being activated, including an OES urban search and rescue team of 29 people.

“We want to make sure we are ahead of the curve and have enough resources on the ground ahead of future aftershocks,” Schillinger said.

At the news conference, Capt. Paul Dale, Commanding Officer of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, said that “we continue to make damage assessments, but all of our roadways are passable.”

Dale added that inspection of the 1.2 million-acre base continues to be assessed, but all buildings are intact and standing.

However, he did not respond to a question about damage to the Navy base’s airfields.

He added that the number of personnel on base has been increased due to the Fourth of July holiday and the recent events.

NAWS China Lake Public Affair later posted an update on Facebook about its condition, stating that personnel should not report to work on Friday.

“Until further notice, the only authorized access to NAWS China Lake will be Mission Essential Personnel (as identified in the MEP program) and Installation housing residents,” the NAWS China Lake update stated. “Mission Essential personnel should continue to use caution accessing buildings.”

According to Breeden, the city has been in contact with officials at all levels.

“Congressman Kevin McCarthy and Assemblyman Vince Fong have called, and we have talked to many entities,” Breeden said.

Breeden also stressed the declaration of emergency she signed will be critical.

“Because we’ve had over 87 aftershocks of this, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “And with that, the state of emergency allows us to seek significant help from other governmental entities.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom also declared an emergency for Southern California.

All officials cautioned residents to be aware that several more aftershocks are possible following the larger earthquakes and advised to take all advisable precautions, including checking on neighbors.

How it compares

Over the past 40 years, there have been eight other magnitude 5.0 and larger earthquakes within 50 kilometers of Thursday’s 6.4 earthquakes, said Jana Pursley, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The largest nearby prior to Thursday’s earthquakes was a magnitude 5.8 quake on Sept. 20, 1995, about 13 kilometers away, Pursley said.

Caltech seismologist told reporters at a press conference that aftershocks are likely to continue rumbling Kern County, and noted that there is a small chance that the quake was a “foreshock” of an even greater temblor to come.

According to Dr. Lucy Jones, however, the 6.4 magnitude quake was the strongest one to strike Southern California in 20 years. The last one was the 7.1 Hector Mine earthquake that occurred on Oct. 16, 1999.

The Bakersfield Californian reported that Pursley said over the past 40 years, there have been eight other magnitude 5.0 and larger earthquakes within 50 kilometers of Thursday’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake.

The largest nearby prior to Thursday’s earthquakes was a magnitude 5.8 quake on Sept. 20, 1995, about 13 kilometers away, Pursley said.

Emergency personnel from all over Kern County, as well as neighboring Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, responded to the earthquake.

Firefighters and officers from California City and Bakersfield were sent in to assist in the aftermath, according to Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin.

McLaughlin issued a statement on social media Thursday about the actions of his officers and partner agencies:

“The Ridgecrest Police Department diligently strives to ensure the safety of the citizens and guests of the City of Ridgecrest. Today, our capabilities were put to the test and as Chief of this department, I am proud of the members of this agency and the members of this great community who stood up to the challenge. As a result of the series of earthquakes that have hit our community since 10 a.m. this morning, numerous sustained emergencies from fires, downed power lines, mobile homes knocked off their foundations, and unsafe structures, quickly inundated area emergency services. Allied law enforcement agencies within Kern County, the California Highway Patrol, and San Bernardino County, responded to assist our efforts. Kern County Fire and members of CAL-OES brought several teams to the area as well. Our combined efforts were able to stabilize the rapidly evolving situations. All while dealing with continued aftershocks of the earthquake. Our community’s safety is our utmost priority. As such, officers from numerous law enforcement agencies will be patrolling the Ridgecrest neighborhoods to assist with any emergency situations that may arise. Moving forward, we remind our community to stay alert and be proactive with helping your neighbors.”

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