More than 100 Firefighters Battle Sylmar Strip Mall Blaze

Los Angeles firefighters put out hot spots Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, at the scene of a large fire that broke out at a strip mall on the 12700 block of San Fernando Road in Sylmar. (Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)

Firefighters Monday extinguished a greater-alarm blaze that damaged part of an L-shaped strip mall in Sylmar, and no one was hurt.

The fire was reported December 10th at 3:47 a.m. at 12777 San Fernando Road and extinguished in about two hours and 50 minutes, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Firefighters were forced out of the interior and off of the roof on one section of the building because the structural integrity of the roof over the unit where the fire burned was poor, and a section of the roof eventually collapsed, the LAFD reported.

More than 100 firefighters were assigned to the blaze. The majority of the businesses were saved, LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. A damage estimate was not immediately available. 


Source: City News Service and LA Daily News

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Coachella Valley police radio system will cut access to local media

Reporter Shane Newell listens to the ERICA radio at the Desert Sun newsroom’s breaking news desk, Wednesday, December 5, 2018.
(Photo: Zoë Meyers/The Desert Sun)

The governmental body behind the police radio system covering five law enforcement agencies in the Coachella Valley says it has decided to limit the radio system to law enforcement personnel, a move that would cut off access to local journalists.

The Eastern Riverside County Interoperable Communications Authority, or ERICA, which operates the encrypted radio channels used by local police in Beaumont, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Indio and Palm Springs, said the policy change is necessary in order to comply with laws protecting privacy and safety.

But local news outlets say the move will do the opposite, endangering the public by hampering media coverage of disasters like earthquakes or active shooters.

Since it launched in 2010, ERICA has allowed The Desert Sun, KESQ, KMIR and City News Service to listen to its radio system, which is not available to the general public. In November, ERICA alerted the four news outlets it had decided to revoke their access to the broadcasts.

The radio at KESQ went silent shortly thereafter. Radios at The Desert Sun and KMIR continue to broadcast.

Chief Travis Walker of Cathedral City, who serves as chairman of the ERICA Technical Advisory Committee, said the agency decided to confine ERICA communications to law enforcement after legal counsel warned that allowing media access risked releasing protected information like warrants and medical history to people unauthorized by law to hear it.

“If I pulled you over and ran your driver’s license, I get information that is deemed classified,” Walker said, “and the only people that can hear that information are people that have a right to know and a need to know,” like the police.

He said the goal is to safeguard the privacy rights of violent crime victims and minors as well as the safety of officers.

Walker said ERICA risked “significant fines, penalties and even criminal liability” by allowing the media access to the radio communications, including that the Department of Justice could pull the police department’s access to the California Law Enforcement Communications System, or CLETS. CLETS is the computer network law enforcement agencies in California use to access shared databases like vehicle registration records and criminal histories. He said the agency “received a very terse scolding from DOJ” regarding access to encrypted radios.

Law enforcement officers use radios to communicate about incidents like crimes, traffic accidents and disasters. In recent years, some police have encrypted the channels to prevent criminals from eavesdropping on their conversations and to preserve private information disclosed on the radios, like medical conditions. Other agencies, even some that have chosen to encrypt their channels to the general public, have still allowed the media to listen to their broadcasts in real time or with a one-hour time delay.

Adam Scott Wandt, an assistant professor of public policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said law enforcement agencies must balance the imperative to protect officers, crime victims and the general public with the need to be “open and transparent.”

“I can think of very little reason to keep the legitimate media out of law enforcement communications,” he said.

ERICA’s policy reversal comes two months after the entity sent the four media outlets privy to its radio broadcasts a new user agreement. The agreement would have established “rules of engagement” for members of the media responding to breaking news scenes and would have barred the outlets from publishing information from ERICA broadcasts unless they obtained the broadcast through a record request or received written verification from ERICA.

With the exception of City News Service, a wire service whose news updates are published by subscribers like The Desert Sun, leaders of the four local news organizations did not sign the agreement, believing it to be overly restrictive.

The organizations argued that constraining – or blocking – media access to the ERICA system could impede the speedy dissemination of information about local hazards.

“The big issue here is not about the media, or what we can get, per se, or how we’ve been treated,” said Doug Faigin, president of City News Service. “The real issue is about safety to people in the Coachella Valley.”

Desert Sun Executive Editor Julie Makinen said in an email that even if media outlets can obtain ERICA communications with a records request, the process could stop urgent reporting about a developing situation.

“Access to real-time information serves the immediate public interest, so that media may report on a situation that is a grave threat to public safety – for example, a rapidly moving wildfire, a terrorist attack, or an airplane crash … by advising the public of law-enforcement activity in a certain area and advising the audience to stay away from a location,” she said. “We believe that in fact that media awareness of such information in real time can advance and assist the work of emergency personnel, rather than impede it.”


Source: Desert Sun

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Plane Slides Off the Runway At Hollywood Burbank Airport

BURBANK, CA — A passenger plane conducted an emergency landing and slid off the rain-soaked runway at Hollywood Burbank Airport Thursday morning, according to reports.

The Southwest Airlines Flight 278 came to rest just off the runway, CBSLA reported Thursday morning. It rolled off the end of Runway 8 while landing at Hollywood Burbank Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. No injuries were immediately reported, according to airport officials. The plane was stopped by the Engineered Material Arresting System, designed to stop an aircraft that goes off the end of a runway.

In the wake of that 9 a.m. emergency landing, the Federal Aviation Administration has implemented a “groundstop” for Burbank for flights departing from airports within about a three-hour flying distance of Burbank. Aircraft are continuing to depart from Burbank, however, according to the FAA. Passengers should contact their airline for flight status. They can also monitor airport status via the website www.fly.faa.gov/ois.


Source: City News Service

 

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Video: Responders rescue man clinging to tree in rain-swollen river

A dramatic video shows a crew rescuing a man who was clinging to a tree in a rain-swollen river.

KTLA reported that Los Angeles Fire Department responders arrived within minutes of the call about a man who was spotted hanging onto a tree in the river.

“When firefighters got on scene they did in fact have a 50-year-old male that was mid-stream, clinging to a tree, and that was in need of an immediate rescue,” Capt. Erik Scott said.

Scott said responders were deployed upstream and downstream, but it was ultimately decided that the man should be rescued by a helicopter.

The rescuer who was lowered down had trouble reaching the man and kept spinning in circles as he struggled.

The rescuer was eventually able to reach the man and the two were hoisted up into the helicopter.

LAFD officials said the patient was suffering from hypothermia, but was conscious and alert. He was treated and transported to the hospital in fair condition.


Source: EMS1.com, KTLA

 

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Villanueva Sworn in as L.A. County Sheriff, Vowing to `Restore’ Department

Alex Villanueva was sworn in as Los Angeles County’s new sheriff Monday, echoing his campaign vow to “reform, rebuild and restore” the department while saying the agency would not be influenced by “divisive policies” from outside the county and state.

This city and our entire county is standing at a crossroads,” Villanueva told the crowd gathered for his swearing-in ceremony at East Los Angeles College. “We can either decide to go along to get along or to challenge a status quo that has only worked for a select few and left far too many behind. The people of Los Angeles have decided that we’re going to make real and new vision for what law enforcement in our community should do and look like.”

Villanueva, a retired sheriff’s lieutenant defeated incumbent Jim McDonnell in the Nov. 6 election. McDonnell, the first sitting sheriff to lose a re-election bid in Los Angeles County in more than a century, did not concede defeat until Nov. 26, when vote-counting showed Villanueva with an insurmountable lead.

Villanueva has already made headlines even before taking office. He announced plans last week to follow through on a campaign promise to clean house at the department by dismissing a series of people in the agency’s leadership structure.

Among those being relieved of duty are Undersheriff Jacques La Berge, four assistant sheriffs, eight chiefs, a communications director and a community outreach director, Danny Leserman, a spokesman for Villanueva, told the Los Angeles Times. The department’s two constitutional policing advisers will be transferred to new jobs with Los Angeles County and will be replaced, he said.

In his speech Monday, Villanueva called his win the culmination of a career of “speaking truth to power.”

“This is a rare moment in history where we not only have the opportunity but the courage and responsibility to challenge an existing power to ensure that no matter where you are from, where you live, how you pray, the color of your skin — your sheriff’s department will work to protect you and keep you safe.”

He also hinted at his campaign theme of not allowing immigration agents into county jails and his support of the state’s “sanctuary” law, saying, “We will not allow any divisive policies from outside Los Angeles or California dictate the way we do our job here in California. Hard-working immigrant families shouldn’t have to wonder if we’re here to protect them or deport them.”

To the members of the department gathered at the ceremony, Villanueva said, “I only ask that you serve your community with dignity and pride.”

“Treat everyone with respect and the success of your career will be determined by how well you serve the community, not the political powers to be,” he said. “Those days are over.”

He thanked his campaign supporters for spreading a message to “reform, rebuild and restore the department that reverberated throughout the entire county of Los Angeles, sustaining itself with a belief that together we could actually make history.”


Article Source: MyNewsLA.com

 

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Residents Survive CA Blaze in Chilly Lake

When over a dozen people became trapped by the Camp Fire last week, a firefighter sent them wading into the Lake Concow reservoir.

Nov. 14 — CONCOW, CA — When Scott realized that his lakeside home in the wooded hills of Butte County was surrounded by fire, he knew he had only one way out: the water.

He, his wife and their two young adult sons, along with two dogs and a cat, plunged into the chilly Concow Reservoir 20 miles east of Chico last Thursday as flames singed the giant tule reeds on shore behind them.

Not far from the family, at least a dozen others, some elderly, had also rushed into the mountain lake, all wearing what they’d woken up in. They were from a caravan of vehicles that a firefighter had been trying to escort away from the early-morning blaze before the group ran into the same wall of fire as Scott, who asked to be identified only by his first name.

The firefighter ordered the drivers out of their vehicles and into the murky water.

As time passed, the sizzling heat from the shoreline forced some to go deeper into the lake. Theirs would become another astonishing tale of survival from the Camp Fire, which continued to grow Tuesday after becoming the deadliest and most destructive inferno in California history.

Among those saved was 90-year-old Bruno. Scott’s son, Michael, helped their older neighbor from his home and into the reservoir, though he wasn’t sure he could survive the dip.

“Bruno was saying, ‘Just leave me. I can’t do this,’” Scott recalled. “I said, ‘Bruno, we’re not going to leave you. And I’m not going to burn, so you better hurry.’”

Before the Camp Fire laid waste to the town of Paradise, making the popular retirement community the center of the historic ruin, thousands living reclusively in the thick pines above had lost homes and loved ones.

In the first hours, the residents of remote places like Concow worked arm in arm to limit their losses, and save as many lives as possible.

“Most of the attention has been on Paradise,” said Scott, 51, who has lived in Concow for decades and didn’t want his family’s name used because of the sensitivity of his wife’s job. “We don’t get any attention here. We don’t really want it.”

Around Lake Concow, where recovery teams have been slower to visit the charred remains of horse ranches, organic farms, pot grows and the secluded enclaves of long-distance commuters, the chilly and wind-whipped water became a sanctuary — but a deeply inhospitable one. Especially for Bruno.

As Scott and Michael’s family cat struggled to stay afloat in a tiny cage, Michael noticed a pair of small rowboats chained to a nearby log. He loosened the vessels and helped Bruno, his mother, his brother and the family pets board. Everyone but his dad.

“There wasn’t enough room for all of us,” said Scott, who insisted that the others paddle to safety while he remained submerged.

It was so cold, he said, that at several points he waded back toward the flames to warm up.

Farther north on the lake, Scott’s in-laws were among an estimated 15 people standing shoulder-deep in water. Some of their abandoned cars, which included an old Dodge truck, a minivan and a Kia SUV, remained on Hoffman Road on the north side of the reservoir Tuesday.

Cal Fire Division Chief Garrett Sjolund, who is based in Butte County, said additional firefighters came to the aid of the fleeing residents, handing out fire shelters, the pop-up tents that serve as a last defense against life-threatening heat, to those that couldn’t withstand the water.

“It was a true rescue story,” Sjolund said.

At some point, Michael navigated his crew to an island in the middle of the reservoir. They were safe from the flames, but the frigid water left Bruno drifting in and out of consciousness and suffering severe hypothermia. Michael proceeded back into the water and then onto shore to find help.

“Somebody knocked on my door and said there was an old man on the island,” said Concow resident Peggy Moak, whose house was one of the few that survived the fire as hundreds of others around her were reduced to ash.

Moak said some friends and family threw a canoe into the back of a truck and headed to the lake. They were back in no time, having collected Bruno and the rest of the family.

“The man was fully clothed, too, all his jeans and shoes,” Moak remembered. “He looked like he wasn’t going to last much longer.”

She and others stripped Bruno of his garb and warmed him with a hot bath, tea and fresh clothes, and he appeared to liven up, Moak said. He was later driven to a hospital in Chico. His condition Tuesday was not known.

Authorities confirmed that several of the others in the reservoir were hospitalized, some with serious burns. Their status was not clear either.

Scott remained in the lake until the fire ran its course. When he finally returned to shore, he was virtually unharmed.

Troy Miller, who lives nearby, had heard the stories of neighbor helping neighbor and had, in fact, gotten a hand from some friends after his home was leveled by the fire.

“We take care of each other here,” he said, as he camped out on his small lot with his two dogs. “We take care of ourselves.”


Original article from San Francisco Chronicle by Kurtis Alexander

 

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If You Drive in Los Angeles the Cops can Track Your Every Move

It was a particularly chilly cold case. At 1 am on November 18, 2010, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department responded to reports of gunfire in a leafy cul-de-sac near Universal Studios. They found Jong Kim lying in front of his home and shot at least five times. Kim, a 50-year-old liquor store owner, later died in a hospital without regaining consciousness.

The most promising clues were grainy surveillance images that showed a two-tone Honda Prelude with a sunroof and fancy rims, but no visible license plate. Paperwork revealed a veritable haystack of vehicles—5,000 Preludes registered in Los Angeles County alone.

Despite a $50,000 reward for information, the investigation stalled for more than a year. Then in May 2012, detectives turned to a new Automatic License Plate Reader system. ALPRs use digital cameras attached to buildings, street lights, and patrol cars to snap photos of passing cars. Computer-vision technology can determine the make and model of the car, and “read” the license plate—turning public streets into massive databases of almost every car on the road.

After looking at hundreds of photos, detectives focused on cars with the suspect Prelude’s modifications. One stood out. Although it was painted a different color in 2012, officers searched through the ALPR database and confirmed that in 2010 the car matched the surveillance video. It was enough to identify a suspect, who in 2015 was convicted of Kim’s murder and jailed for 50 years.

The analysis was made possible by software provided by Palantir, Peter Thiel’s shadowy intelligence startup. The LAPD was one of Palantir’s first local law enforcement customers, after it had cut its teeth on Pentagon, CIA, and NSA contracts. Since signing with Palantir in 2009, the LAPD has spent more than $20 million on its software and hardware.

Documents obtained through a public-records request suggest at least $5.8 million of that went to ALPR technologies.

Hundreds of Requests a Day

The LAPD has never divulged how many ALPR searches it conducts. But an email obtained by WIRED through the public record request says its police officers tapped the system 200 to 300 times a day in 2016. Los Angeles County sheriffs performed a similar number of searches through Palantir, according to the email. Police in Long Beach, the city south of LA, made an additional 30 searches a day. Together, the three departments make hundreds of thousands of searches a year.

It’s hard to put that number in perspective because there are few statistics on police use of license plate readers. However, Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the American Civil Liberties Union of California, considers the total “enormous.” He says it shows that it is now standard practice for officers to use ALPR “as a surveillance tool” even when “officers have no reason to believe a driver was involved in any criminal activity.”

Using Palantir’s software, LAPD officers can see everywhere a car has been photographed in a given time period.

The LAPD has not said how many ALPR cameras it owns or has access to, although documents show that it shares images with cameras from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Long Beach, Glendale, and Burbank police, as well as with Burbank, LAX, and Van Nuys airports. It has also used images from civilian ALPR cameras, typically deployed in shopping malls, universities, and transit centers for security.

ALPR systems are now widely used by law enforcement in the US and around the world. Surveys collected by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2013 found that 93 percent of police departments in cities with 1 million or more people used ALPR. Even half the departments serving towns as small as 25,000 people have ALPR. One ALPR company, Vigilant Solutions, claims that it carries out over a billion license plate scans each year.

Such systems traditionally have been used by law enforcement to help locate stolen vehicles. But when ALPR data is stored for years and then integrated with analytical systems like Palantir, it becomes much more powerful—and potentially open to abuse.

According to a Palantir user guide for the LAPD disclosed to WIRED, detectives start by logging in with their police credentials. When the system launched in 2009, officers had to type in why they were searching. Many would just enter “investigation” or the numeric code for a crime, like “459” for burglary, according to a 2014 email to users from John Gaw, a sheriff’s department sergeant responsible for working with Palantir.

Gaw warned Palantir users to better justify requests for ALPR searches, lest the department attract more attention from civil liberties groups. “[We] are facing potential limitations on the use … of the ALPR database by the ACLU,” he wrote. “We may be challenged to … show we are … making sure every user has a valid reason.”

Officers misusing law enforcement databases for their own purposes is a perennial problem at the LAPD and elsewhere. Some officers weren’t happy about Gaw’s team auditing ALPR requests and questioning vague rationales. “Unfortunately they have been contacting every user that puts in an unacceptable search reason,” wrote another LASD sergeant, Peter Jackson.

Searching by Plate Number, or by Area

In its latest version that went live in May 2016, called ALPR 2.0 or TBird, Palantir’s ALPR system requires users to enter a specific case number, and to select a purpose for each search via a pulldown menu. However, some of the reasons are vague, such as “protect critical infrastructure” or “protect the public during events.”

“The broad language for categorizing searches suggests that no indication of criminality is required to make a query,” says the ACLU’s Bibring. “If that’s the case, it’s basically the Wild West for when officers can query millions of data points.” Neither Palantir nor the LAPD responded to multiple requests for comment on this story.

Once in the system, detectives have several options. If they have a full or partial plate number, they can search using that. The system will then display matching plates, and a map view showing every time each plate was captured by the ALPR system.

A Timeline button brings up a chart showing how many times a plate has been searched, while a Freq Analysis feature displays a table showing those hits by time of day, and day of the week. These can help detectives spot patterns, such as where a vehicle’s driver might live or work.

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Maritime Mobile Service Network Operators Assist Vessel with Ill Crew Member

Sailing Vessel Marie Elena

Amateur Radio operators associated with the Maritime Mobile Service Network (MMSN) played a significant part in summoning medical assistance on November 9 for a crew member suffering chest pains on board the 48-foot sailing vessel Marie Elena, some 300 miles east of Bermuda.

“The assistance we received from the ham radio operator[s] was crucial in helping us communicate with the vessel’s crew,” US Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Travis Unser said afterward. Unser was the search-and-rescue coordinator for the incident.

MMSN member Donald Plunkett, VA6FH, heard a call for medical assistance at 1650 UTC on the net’s 14.300 MHz frequency from Nick Cancro, KC2WRH, the captain of the Marie Elena.

Cancro reported that a crew member was experiencing severe chest pains and needed medical assistance. Fellow MMSN operator Fred Moore, W3ZU, of Inverness, Florida, had good propagation with the Marie Elena and contacted the vessel, linking it via a phone patch to the US Coast Guard Station in Norfolk, Virginia. The Coast Guard was able to connect the patient directly to medical personnel via the phone patch to ascertain symptoms and prescribe first aid measures prior to medical assistance arrival. Moore arranged with the Marie Elena to contact him at the bottom of the hour throughout the night and to call immediately if the patient’s condition worsened. The US Air Force also came on frequency at the Coast Guard’s request to evaluate the situation and see if it could assist.

Due to the sailboat’s distance offshore, the Coast Guard directed the captain to head toward Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Coast Guard then redirected the cutter Spencer, underway near the Virginia-North Carolina border, toward the Marie Elena. The Spencer rendezvoused with the sailboat at about 1230 UTC on 11/10/18, launching a small boat crew and transporting the man aboard the cutter. A short time later, a helicopter crew was able to hoist the man aboard from the Spencer and transport him to a hospital in Norfolk. Moore was assisted by a relay station Mark Strothmann Sr., KC9YRX, in Wisconsin, who provided much-needed information throughout the incident. Additional MMSN members pitched in as well.

“This was a true team effort, and I am proud of the members of this organization who train for just this type of event. They performed in an exemplary fashion,” said MMSN Manager Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL.

The Coast Guard noted that the Marie Elena has activated a Personal Locator Beacon and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), permitting rescue personnel to hone in on the vessel’s precise location.


Source: ARRL News. Photo from MarineTraffic.com

 

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Woolsey Fire Containment Grows As Fire Crews Battle Strong Winds

Updated November 14, 2018

A home burned down by the Woolsey Fire sits on a hilltop overlooking the Santa Monica Mountains, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Agoura Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

MALIBU, CA – The deadly Woolsey Fire has burned 97,620 acres, destroyed 453 structures, threatened another 57,000, forced the evacuation of more than 265,000 people in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and is 40 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, as firefighters face another day of strong Santa Ana winds and gusts of up to 40 miles per hour. Full containment of the blaze is expected by Sunday.

Firefighters were working to contain a flareup that was reported Wednesday in the Point Mugu area in Ventura County, and significant progress was made in some areas of the firefight.

Roger Kelton, 67, wipes his tears while searching through the remains of his mother-in-law’s home burned down by the Woolsey Fire Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Agoura Hills, Calif. “We saw the pictures Friday of the house on fire,” said Kelton. “We knew it was gone but still haven’t had my good cry yet. I’ve been trying to be strong for my daughter, my wife and my mother-in-law.” (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby told the Board of Supervisors there are flames burning deep in the Malibu Canyon area that fire crews cannot access.

“We’re doing a lot of air drops but it’s not safe for our firefighters to go in there,” he said. “Our concern is that when the wind shifts (likely on Thursday) … that fire does not blow out of there and then creep over to the south side of Malibu or into Topanga Canyon. When it’s safe to let people come back home, we will.”

A meeting Tuesday night at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall began with cheers for first responders, but was quickly followed by some residents walking out because they felt their concerns were not being addressed, KCAL9 reported.

“They were not prepared, the fire department was not prepared,” said 45-year Malibu resident Forrest Stuart told KCAL9. “My house was saved by my next door neighbor who is an 85-year-old retired, decorated fire chief. He and his wife are 85 and they stood there all night and knocked away embers that hit my house. I’m pretty angry about it.”

Evacuee Marybeth Massett told KCAL9: “My family is OK, we lost our home. It’s just sad, feelings of frustration are normal. I have the deepest respect for our first responders who do heroes work all the time and, unfortunately, they couldn’t be everywhere at once.”

The continuing danger prompted Los Angeles County officials to reissue a warning to residents in evacuated areas to stay away until conditions are deemed safe.

Malibu City Councilman Skylar Peak has asked people to refrain from attempting to get back into Malibu by boat.

The sheriff’s department has repeatedly tried to reassure residents that their homes would be safe from looters, with more than 600 deputies on 12- hour rotational shifts.

The northbound and southbound Ventura (101) Freeway from Valley Circle Boulevard remained open. Pacific Coast Highway remained closed to all traffic from the Ventura/Los Angeles County line to Sunset Boulevard.

Two people who died in the fire were found Friday inside a burned vehicle in a long driveway in the 33000 block of Mulholland Highway.

Some 3,592 firefighters were assigned to battle the blaze, while, 22 helicopters worked from above, officials said. A total of 619 engines, 48 water tenders, 23 bulldozers and 57 hand crews were sent into the battle, Cal Fire reported. Crews from other areas, including Orange County and Arizona, also sent firefighters and equipment to aid the battle.

Three firefighters have been injured battling the Woolsey Fire.

According to Cal Fire, more than a half-million gallons of fire retardant has been dropped already on the Woolsey Fire, along with 1.5 million gallons of water.

Melted trash bins stand in front of a home burned down by the Woolsey Fire Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Agoura Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


Original article from Patch.com by Emily Holland.  City News Service contributed to this post; All photos courtesy of AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

 

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Amateur Radio Volunteers at the Ready for California Fire Duty

 

Ham Radio operator Ron Runswick, WB6IAG lost his home in Paradise CA to the Camp Fire. This is the car he and his wife drove to escape the flames.

[Updated 2018 November 13 @ 1024 UTC] Amateur Radio volunteers have been active or are standing by on several fronts as wildfires continue to rage in large sections of California. 

Camp Fire

In Butte County, in Northern California, the Camp Fire, the state’s deadliest wildfire, triggered a call up of ARES members for communication support. A small wildfire that started in a mountainous area of Butte County quickly grew to some 20,000 acres, due to high winds and gusts of more than 50 MPH. Evacuations were ordered by the county, and eventually more than 25,000 people were evacuated. As multiple shelters opened to assist the evacuees, five Sacramento Valley ARESgroups were called out to support communication between the Red Cross Disaster Operations Center (DOC) and the shelters.

The uncontrolled wildfire eventually consumed the town of Paradise, and the town of 27,000 residents has been devastated. As of November 13, the Camp Fire covered some 125,000 acres, and more than 40 people had died, many while escaping the fires or trapped in their homes.  More than 7,600 structures have been destroyed. An additional 15,500 residences are in danger.

Utilizing mutual assistance, more than 20 ARES members from five ARES groups are supporting the shelters. ARES members have also been tasked by Red Cross to shadow Red Cross delivery vehicles to provide communication in the mountain areas to the shelters.

ARES communication at the shelters has been carried out using voice, Winlink, and email to pass shelter counts, and tactical messages between the shelter and the Red Cross Disaster Operations Center and Cal Office of Emergency Services.

The Red Cross is supporting ARES at the shelters with hot spots and backup radios.

Working 12-hour shifts, Sacramento Valley Section District Emergency Coordinator 3 Michael Joseph, KK6GZB, has been staffing the Red Cross radio station as net control for the DOC, passing messages and tracking ARES personnel. Sacramento ARES members have been pitching in as needed. Joseph also has been coordinating ARES deployments as needed. 

Visit the ARRL Sacramento Valley Section Facebook page or Twitter account for more information. — Thanks to Sacramento Valley Section Emergency Coordinator Greg Kruckewit, KG6SJT

Woolsey Fire

The Woolsey Fire that swept through the westernmost portion of Los Angeles County, including Malibu, and the easternmost area of Ventura County in the ARRL Santa Barbara Section, requiring the evacuation of more than 200,000 Los Angeles County residents — an unprecedented amount in recent decades. Evacuees included several celebrities, several of whom lost homes in the fire. Nearly 50 people have died in all fires.

“Nevertheless, governmental radio systems used by fire and sheriff held up well, even though cell phone and internet service went out in many fire areas because of burned utility poles,” Los Angeles Section Manager Diana Feinberg, AI6DF. “Evacuees went to areas where cell phone service was generally available.”

Feinberg said Los Angeles ARES (ARES LAX) has not been activated because no county hospitals are in the affected area and no hospital outside the fire zone was in danger of losing communication. She added, though, that a sizable team of ARES LAX operators organized by LAX-Northwest District Emergency Coordinator Roozy Moabery, W1EH, did extensive logistics work over the November 10 – 11 weekend at a major drop-off site in the San Fernando Valley for evacuee supplies. ARES team members worked with other volunteers to accept nearly 10 tons of pet food, plus thousands of boxes of items such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, razors, lotion, feminine products, and sunscreen, as well as baby food, formula, diapers, and wipes, towels and bedding, snacks, and non-perishable food items, Feinberg said.

On the air for the Woolsey Fire, both the Los Angeles County Disaster Communications Service (DCS) — Amateur Radio volunteers overseen by the Sheriff’s Department — and the City of Los Angeles Fire Department Auxiliary Communication Service (ACS) operated nets and monitored their respective frequencies. “The DCS group at Lost Hills Sheriff Station covers most of the Los Angeles County areas affected by the Woolsey Fire and communicated with organized amateurs in the cities of Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Hidden Hills, Malibu, Westlake Village, and unincorporated mountain areas when not affected by respective mandatory evacuation orders,” Feinberg said. “The City of Los Angeles’ ACS group was involved when the city’s West Hills neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley became the fire’s northeastern front, forcing about half the West Hills community to evacuate.”

Feinberg said ACS members have also been involved with delivering food and water supplies to LAFD firefighters and performing fire patrols. American Red Cross volunteers are reported to be using Amateur Radio in connection with some of their fire response activities, Feinberg reported. The Woolsey Fire covers nearly 100,000 acres and was reported 36% contained as of November 13.

ARES members in the Los Angeles and other ARRL California Sections will be heavily involved on Thursday, November 15, during the 2018 California Statewide Healthcare and Medical Exercise. ARES LAX plans to operate from most of the 73 hospitals in Los Angeles County that have emergency rooms, as well as at the county’s Medical Alert Center that coordinates hospital bed availability. — Thanks to Diana Feinberg, AI6DF 


Article published by ARRL on 1/13/2018

 

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