Life returns to normal after another wildfire in Wrightwood
Pacific Crest neighborhood threatened once again with a vegetation fire near the Blue Cut Fire area.
By Vicky Rinek
A vegetation fire broke out around 12:15 p.m. Saturday, June 17, in the open hillside on the ridge east of Zermatt Drive and Lone Pine Canyon Road. Various agencies quickly worked the blaze containing it to an area away from structures. SB Co Sheriff placed a mandatory evacuation affecting five homeowners. Wright Mountain Road at Hwy 2 was closed off as a result of the blaze. An evacuation center was established at Serrano High School. Liz Chambers, resident on Pacific Crest, could see the flames from her deck. SBCo Sherriff told her that the fire was within 1000 feet of her home and she needed to evacuate ASAP. The evacuation was lifted by 5:33 p.m., according to SBCo Sheriff public relations officer, Cindy Beckman, Twitter post. As of 5 p.m. Saturday, the fire was 20% contained, according to CalFire Capt. Debbie Chapman, public information officer in charge of the incident. Several air tankers dropped retardant helping the fire fighters get a good handle on the situation. Clean-up crews remained on the scene clearing brush and stopping hot spots to mitigate threats to structures. “200 personnel, 25 engines, 5 hand crews and 2 helicopters worked the incident, said Chapman. The fire charred 10.8 acres and no homes or structures were damaged. By Monday the fire was 75% contained and crews remained on the scene making sure no other hotspots were active. At Tuesday night’s Wrightwood Fire Safe Council meeting, Angeles National Forest’s (ANF) Chris Matthews explained they still had crews at the site on Tuesday, for mop-up. Matthews was the lead on the Unified Incident Command, and pointed out the benefits of fuel reduction in the area, both by ANF and the Blue Cut Fire. “There was one strip of green where a fire could have started, and that’s where it was,” Matthews commented. He added, “The mastication projects we’ve finished, and those planned will give us a fighting chance this year.” ANF also has applications pending for projects that would encircle Wrightwood with defensible space. Agencies that worked on the Zermatt fire included the Angeles National Forest Fire, San Bernardino County Fire, CalFire, Los Angeles County Fire and San Bernardino County Sheriff Department. The cost to fight the fire is estimated in the hundreds of thousands, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Eight-hour power outage in Wrightwood
By Vicky Rinek
At 8:02 a.m. Monday, June 19, 2017, the 5,600 residents (3,100 homes and businesses) in Wrightwood were without power for eight hours or more despite a heat advisory. The planned outage notices were mailed in advance, and follow-up letters came days before. The outage happened on a day when temperatures reached the high 90s, and at one resident’s home, in the Pacific Crest neighborhood, a patio thermometer read 102º. Jensen’s Market ran their generators and all the restaurants closed for the eight hours. Nobody likes to be without electricity. However, maintenance outages are a necessity that requires electrical services be temporarily shut off to make planned infrastructure improvements, repairs, and upgrades. Edison’s press release stated, “With this increasing and aggressive work schedule, it’s a challenge to complete all the necessary work needed to maintain a reliable electric grid while minimizing the impacts to customers.” The private utility company utilized helicopters to replace components on SCE’s network to supply additional power lines to Wrightwood homes and businesses. Because of the steep, rugged terrain, it was necessary to bring in helicopters to complete the job safely. Traffic on Hwy 2 had to be stopped while the helicopters brought in the new equipment and poles. “Also, as we integrate more of what is called, ‘distributed generation’ on our grid — such as rooftop solar or energy storage — it is imperative that our grid can handle new technologies while providing customers with safe and reliable electricity,” said a spokesperson from the utility company. Edison installed two H-frame power poles to bring reliable power that goes into Wrightwood. Electricity was restored at 4:00 p.m. for most residents, by 4:30 for the rest. Everyone went back to their business of enjoying the cool mountain breeze, with the aid of electric fans.
RACE Communications Addresses SJUSD Board
By Donna Alvarez
RACE Communications opened the school board meeting with a presentation by Raul Alcaraz, CEO of RACE Communications. He reported on the much-needed Internet services focusing on an advanced fiber network for the cities of Phelan, Pinion Hills, and Oak Hills. These cities are considered “priority areas.” Such rural areas are in “dire need of high-speed internet service. Neither wire line nor mobile services are satisfactory in these areas. These areas are exactly the type of areas the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) fund is intended to serve. The proposed network, when deployed, will provide service to nearly 8,000 households and have the capacity dedicated for public-benefited purposes, including schools, police, fire, and healthcare. Public organizations who desire fiber optics for public benefit applications will receive unhindered access to the network.” (letter from California Advanced Services Fund, Communications Divisions) According to Alcaraz, Phelan has been underserved. Verizon, “who sold their copper wire infrastructure to Frontier Communications effective April 1st, 2016,” (Michael Palecki, Mountaineer Progress, June 8, 2017), will not provide more service. Anyone who has Verizon, Frontier, or Spectrum services would not be eligible for the RACE service because they are already being served. Frontier declared that since they are already here, there is no need for another vendor. Alcaraz stated that the quality of service that Frontier has given its customers has not been good. For example, because of the lack of Internet service June 5th, 2017, many businesses lost cell phone access for that day. He further stated that RACE Communications would give faster and better service to its clients. Charlie Johnson, President of the Phelan Chamber of Commerce commented that such loss of service through Frontier has cost businesses to lose work and revenue. Alcaraz requested the board of trustees’ support. The board drafted a letter to RACE Communications, stating that they would like to support their efforts, to be included in the CPUC Packet for their grant application. The RACE Communication service would also include student access to the Internet. Their service packages are, for the most part, cheaper than those of Frontier. RACE Communications’ service is faster and better, according to Alcaraz. Assistant Superintendent, Karen Winkler, in charge of SJUDS finance, gave an in depth presentation for the 2017-2018 adopted budget. Due to projected declining enrollment, for the 2017-2018 school year, and an increase in budget concerns, the district will be losing revenue. Often, this is due to the loss of the Average Daily Attendance (ADA). An increase of special education population, and their needs and services, means that more funds need to be allocated to those areas. More students, with lesser disabilities, but still in need of services, are being admitted to the special education program. This raises the cost of education. Other expenditures include the upcoming textbook adoption cycles such as texts for English Language Arts, Social Science, and Math. Governor Jerry Brown may increase the revenue production for school districts, but according to Winkler, he usually comes in low on his estimates. The Governor may raise budget expenditures depending the rise in the stock market, she said. Board members praised the excellent end of the school year, with the various promotions and high school graduations. Karie LaFever, and other trustees, stated that all school sites were unique and expertly organized. “A joy to attend,” they said. LaFever also mentioned the many programs available during the summer, such as the summer lunch program at Serrano High School during the month of June (June 5th through the 29th). The times for the lunches are from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the ages served are from one year old to 18 years old. Board member, Christina Behringer reported that any budget cuts made within the district would be made as far away from the classroom as possible. Superintendent Dr. Ryan Holman said it was a pleasure to be at each promotion and graduation. He gave special thanks to everyone who involved in the presentations.
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