News from the Mountaineer Progress Newspaper September 29, 2016
Blue Cut emergency is not over
By Terri Hill
Saturday September 24, 2016 : What began as a feel-good story about amazing volunteers working to clear burned-out properties of rubble from the Blue Cut Fire, took on an additional dimension, San Bernardino County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) was deployed five weeks ago, to begin the daunting tasks of locating and mapping properties of homes that were destroyed by the Blue Cut Fire. The data was then used to determine which property owners would require assistance in the form of supplies, water, food, and physical labor. VOAD is an association of agencies whose main function is to bring together community agencies to prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from disasters. VOAD provides, “a network through which individual organizations can more effectively address their mission and service goals during all phases of a disaster. The SBCo VOAD itself does not respond; it is simply a means to bring together voluntary and service agencies to identify resources available, and plan to allot them effectively and efficiently in the event of a disaster.” Source: SBCo VOAD webpage. Volunteer organizations cooperating through VOAD as the Tri-Community Recovery Team and involved with the aftermath of Blue Cut include: SBCo Fire Emergency Communications Systems (ECS), CERT (Phelan/Pinon Hills, Lytle Creek, and Wrightwood), Team Rubicon – an international organization of veterans, Red Cross, Salvation Army, LDS Church in Phelan and Wrightwood, Phelan New Life Church of the Nazarene, Calvary Chapel of Phelan, Catholic Charities, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, and more. Jinny Lee, Mtn. Top Café owner, has hosted the 200 or so volunteers during the weekends, supplying bathroom facilities, parking lot space, and more. Victor Valley Transit provided transportation from the command center at Mtn. Top to the clean-up sites. Food, water, and clothing have been distributed, and over the last two weekends of September, the focus was on clearing the debris from damaged properties, so owners can begin to rebuild and move forward. Before rebuilding can begin, the property must be cleared of debris, and there must be a water supply. San Bernardino County had originally planned to allow a waiver of the fees associated with inspection and removal of rubble from properties with damaged homes that were built before 1985, and might therefore have asbestos within the remains of the home. The Air Quality Management District (AQMD) however, did not approve the waiver, or the inspection for asbestos for Blue Cut Fire victims’ properties. This has left a great many of the fire victims in dire straits, as the fees for inspection and removal of asbestos average $350 to $650, depending on the square footage of the original structure. Many properties in West Cajon and Swarthout Valleys were not insured, either because owners were denied coverage, or for financial reasons. Dozens of families have lost everything they own, and in many cases their livelihood, and they have nowhere to go. Mrs. Sarah Choi and her husband Michael are renters who had greenhouses on their property. The sale of produce and soybeans provided their income. Robin Bishop of VOAD and Marlene Kiemel of SBCo ECS, met Mrs. Choi weeks after the fire, when they were canvassing an area on the south side of SR-138, west of Mormon Rocks. She was sitting in the scree that was once her home. Mrs. Choi was distraught, helpless, as she spoke of ending her life in the face of the tragic circumstances of her and her husband’s situation. Members of the VOAD team had Mrs. Choi hospitalized, for emotional and physical stress. When she returned to her husband and the property, volunteers had come to deliver supplies, and to clear the debris left in the fire’s wake. Robin Bishop, with members of the Mormon Church and Team Rubicon, befriended the couple and spent Saturday and Sunday, September 24 and 25, filling large bins, provided by the county, with burned scraps and foliage. Mrs. Choi spent hours combing the remains of her home for treasures, bits and pieces of her life before the disaster. She shared stories of a necklace given to her by her brother, and rings in a small box, all scorched, and all physical memories to be cherished. As Debra Williams, of Building Resilient Communities pointed out, “The Blue Cut emergency is not over.” Like so many victims of the fire, Mr. and Mrs. Choi have nothing left. They are living in tents and relying on the kindness of volunteers for their food, water, and necessities. Residents of West Cajon and Swarthout whose property burned are without water, and many are still without power. While the flames and smoke have cleared, the need for emergency relief will continue for months. Williams said the Blue Cut Fund, being collected and distributed by United Way, is being used to fill the short and long-term needs not covered by other emergency funds and organizations. These monies can help fire victims pay for fees and applications for permits. Williams suggests giving monetary donations to the United Way Blue Cut Fire Fund, and directing those in need to contact United Way for assistance. A great need still exists for financial assistance in the areas devastated by the fire. From Inland Empire United Way – Blue Cut Fire Fund webpage: Contributions will be used to address the short and long-term needs of those affected by the Blue Cut Fire in San Bernardino County. United Way is committed to working with other local nonprofits and service providers to identify greatest needs and the best resources for helping this community recover in the weeks and months ahead. 100% of contributions will be directed to recovery efforts for those affected by the Blue Cut Fire. Make your contribution online, or by check made payable to Inland Empire United Way and mailing to IEUW Fire Fund, 9644 Hermosa Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730. For donations over $1,000, please send check or contact Jamie Lamb at (909) 980-2857 x214. For additional information on the Relief Fund, please visit www.IEUW.org/news/press-releases/item/344-relief-fund. If you or a loved one are in need of assistance or resources, please dial 2-1-1 or 1-888-435-7565.
Wrightwood Community Services District proposal advances to March ballot By Terri Hill
Thursday, September 22, approximately 50 people attended the Local Agency Formation Commission’s (LAFCO) public hearing to address residents and collect formal protests to the formation of a Wrightwood Community Services District. Residents and property owners were notified by mail, and in a legal posting in the Mountaineer Progress, of the opportunity to protest by mail, or in person at the hearing. Had 51% of registered voters, residents and property owners within the proposed CSD boundaries, protested the proposal, it would not move forward to a ballot issue in March. Landowner protests totaled 1.16% and registered voter protests amounted to roughly 2%. The proposal will appear on the march 7th ballot in 2017. On the same ballot, voters will select five names from a list of candidates running for the WCSD Board of Directors. Residents will receive forms in the mail, from the Registrar of Voters from both San Bernardino and L.A. Counties, for people interested in running for one of the five board positions. The County holds free classes for those interested in sitting on the Board of Directors. While a few protests were voiced during the hearing, most of the speakers asked for clarification on one or more issues within the proposal. LAFCO Executive Officer Kathleen Rollings- McDonald answered questions clearly and succinctly, while reiterating the purpose of the meeting was to hear objections only, and there would be no changes in the proposal before it goes on the ballot. A copy of the proposal is available to read at the library, and at http://www.sbclafco.org/Proposals/ProposalsAvailable/SignificantProposals/LAFCO3202.aspx
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