Supervisors formally declare emergency to deal with aftermath of wind event

RIVERSIDE – To obtain federal and state assistance, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors formally declared a local emergency due to the effects of the recent Santa Ana windstorm.

The proclamation, approved in a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Chuck Washington absent, said that the county “experienced extreme weather conditions, including … sustained damaging winds, numerous local vegetation fires and … power outages which created dangerous conditions and necessitated the closure of schools.”

The emergency declaration will be presented to the California Office of Emergency Services in the interest of obtaining monetary and other relief under the California Disaster Assistance Act.

The Emergency Management Department said in a message to the board that “thousands of residents have been impacted” and are continuing to deal with the aftermath of the Dec. 4-8 Santa Ana wind event.

The greatest damage from the offshore gusts occurred on the outskirts of Murrieta when the Liberty Fire erupted Thursday afternoon. The wind-whipped blaze scorched 300 acres, destroying a home and multiple outbuildings before it was contained Sunday evening.

Schools in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District were shut down as a result of the destructive wildfire. Schools in other local districts were also closed, mainly because of hazardous driving conditions stemming from the strong winds.

In the mountain communities of Idyllwild and Pine Cove, the winds hurled trees into power lines, triggering blackouts. Southern California Edison ultimately decided to shut down electrical service as a precaution, preventing sparking transmission lines from igniting additional fires.

Emergency Management Department Director Bruce Barton is expected to report back to the board in 30 days on the status of the county’s relief claims and cleanup operations.

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