Valley News -

By Diane Sieker
Writer 

AEC town meeting addresses Cranston Fire and reinstatement of power to mountain communities

 

Last updated 8/9/2018 at 4:56pm

Diane Sieker

Cranston Fire Operations Section Chief Bill Steers provides an update on the battle to contain the blaze at at an informational meeting hosted by the Anza Electric Cooperative Tuesday, July 31.

The Anza Community Hall hosted a meeting called by the Anza Electric Cooperative the evening Tuesday, July 31. The purpose of the gathering was to bring the members of the community news on the emergency regarding the Cranston Fire and the process of reinstating of power to the mountain communities.

AEC General Manager Kevin Short headed the gathering, assisted by several of his staff.

 A briefing by Cranston Fire Operations Section Chief Bill Steers provided an update on the battle to contain the blaze, using a large map to illustrate the various fronts being fought.

"Crews are mopping it up, doing good work there," he said of several sections. "Bonita Vista and Garner Ranch area and Apple Canyon, there's a little bit here still to mop up."

He said that repairs have begun to the infrastructure and crews were fanning out to ensure the fire's hot spots were quenched.

Incident Commander Jerry McGowan revealed that the blaze to date was recorded at 13,139 acres and 89 percent contained. The audience erupted into loud applause at the news. He added that there were 19 crews, 41 engines, four helicopters, two dozers and six water tenders, with 180 engines committed at one point in the battle.

"This thing is looking pretty good, we're at 89 percent," McGowan said. "We're trying to button this thing up."

Bruce Martin, director of emergency services for the county of Riverside, gave an update on emergency services and congratulated the personnel that have been working hard with the residents during the crisis. He said that the Emergency Operations Center brings all the county resources together to act in behalf of those affected in the most efficient way available.

"We help resource and support incident command for the fire, and we also look at what we need to do and what kind of support is going to be needed" Martin said. "We had at one point in time 30 departments and cooperators in the emergency operations center."

Animal Services, tribal liaisons, Social Services, the Red Cross and fire departments were some of the groups organized as one during this event.

He commended the Hemet Unified School District for keeping the high school available to the Red Cross as an emergency shelter. 

"We will keep everything in place until we know everything is running smooth," Martin said and added that the county would be arranging for the local transfer stations to remain open seven days a week to enable people to discard their extra trash, such as the contents of refrigerators and freezers ruined by the lack of electricity.

"You'll have some food in your refrigerator, but that food is no good. All that stuff needs to be thrown away," he said.

He encouraged people to sign up for the Reverse 911 warning system at www.rivcoready.org.

Interim Fire Chief for Cal Fire Dan Talbot said, "I cannot tell you how proud I am of the fire, emergency community, that they came together, that a lot of things went right and went right by design. The results speak for themselves. We were able to evacuate the mountain. I am also proud of the people on the mountain, the people that heeded the warning to evacuate and those people that came in to volunteer to move large animals. Everyone coming together."

Battalion Chief Robert Fish introduced Dorian Sabenorio, the fire apparatus engineer with Cal Fire assigned to Station 29 in Anza. He praised Sabenorio for his work at the local level and revealed that he had also been evacuated from his home in Idyllwild.

Fish thanked his staff for their excellent communication skills in letting him know what was needed.

California Highway Patrol officer Darren Meyer mentioned several road closures to the crowd, adding that that it was important to remain patient, as the roads are closed to the public so that people do not enter dangerous areas.

A Caltrans representative revealed that they had crews remove over 300 trees in and around the roadways and that they were going to begin guard rail replacement where needed immediately. 

"Safety is first," he said. "We'll update the community as things move forward."

Short introduced Southern California Edison's Chris Able and Jeremy Goldman. Able said that SCE had about 200 employees working in the incident area and about twice that many contractors.

"We had about 126 poles damaged, when all is said and done, as of this morning, we had reset 82 of those," he added. "We are here to support Anza Electric with whatever they need, and we hope to have everyone energized very soon."

Riverside County Sheriff's Department Capt. Leonard Purvis stepped up next, praising the firefighters, emergency personnel and Anza residents. He introduced Deputy Frank James for a quick update.

"We want to make sure you're well-informed. I don't sleep, that's not in my job description," James joked.

He spoke highly of the firefighters and said that the sheriff's department was there to reinforce the safety factor regarding the incident.

"Unfortunately, crime still exists," he said. "If you see something going on that seems out of place, give us a call. My personal phone number is 911. Call that whenever you need me. Non-emergency is (951) 776-1099."

Congressman Raul Ruiz was next to speak. He emotionally praised the first responders and the community for coming together. He said that his office was available to assist residents with issues involving federal government agencies during this crisis, as well as businesses that are facing economic hardship at this time. He has also been connecting individuals with needed resources.

"We advocate for those that are under-represented, vulnerable and don't have the ability to come and drive all the way to the Anza Community Hall," he said, and described a call he received from Pinyon resident Jennifer Ireland, who told him about some elderly persons needing assistance to get supplies like ice and water, due to transportation issues.

Ruiz's office rounded up a food bank and had supplies delivered to the Pinyon Fire Station within hours.

"This fire qualifies for the Federal Management Assistance Grants," Ruiz said. "That means that these grants will help pay for 75 percent of the costs related to the fires. We passed a wildfire prevention act that the president signed into law this past February that we wrote with the community of Idyllwild after the Mountain Fire. That will open up automatically 15 percent of the cost of putting out this fire for prevention services.

"What was most inspiring was the way community came together," Ruiz said. "When times are rough, you look out for one another. When you don't have food, you still share your food. I know that when you're thirsty, you still give your water. I know that when you're tired, you still carry that extra crate of water bottles into this building. And I know that even though you're busy with five, six children or perhaps grandchildren that you're asking about the children at your neighbor's house, to look out for one another. And that was one of the most inspiring things I have seen in Anza, Pinyon Pines, Pine Cove and Garner Valley. That is something I will carry for the rest of my life."

Ruiz introduced Mike Patke, Noel and Bill Donahue and Missy Carver Boulton and praised their selfless work for the community.

"Eighteen hours a day, nonstop," he said. "I want to thank every one of you for running this shelter and for stepping up. You have changed people's lives."

Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington was introduced by Short and spoke about how all the departments at all levels and the community came together for a common cause.

"It was an all-hands effort like I have not seen before," he said.

Washington introduced his Legislative Assistant Brian Tisdale, adding that Tisdale was his "public safety guy."

"My number is (951) 955-1030," Washington said. "Call my office if you are not getting what you need."

Kevin Short took the microphone, giving an update on the AEC's progress on getting power restored to their service territory. He gave a PowerPoint presentation reviewing images of the fire's progression, crews working, "Edison City," the generators and crews.

"I am completely clueless as to what day it is," he said. "It's been a busy week."

Short described the immediate mobilization of Edison in this crisis. He also said that the cooperative called out for generators within the first two hours of the outage, and 12 hours later the first unit arrived. The pictures he showed helped people understand the complexity of the generator setup.

The rest of the generators arrived within 48 hours from across three states, he stated. Short illustrated the cabling and the connections required for all this to work and provide power to the grid.

"All of the generators are synchronized together in terms of voltage and frequency, they all work together to provide the load all at one time," Short said. "It takes a lot of technology to do that. We've had a couple of challenges. The first day or two we were trying to run on one unit and roll one circuit at a time. It worked sometimes, but other times it just shut off. And even this morning we had a 30-minute shutdown due to a frequency problem we still can't figure out."

He described the Edison Mobile Command Center and the city that sprang up in the solar array area at the cooperative's grounds. 

Short patiently explained the rolling energy rotations by using a map to show the various grid circuits. The solar array was taken offline to be able to energize circuits with a generator. Most of the circuits were online 24 hours a day within a very short period.

Diane Sieker

Congressman Raul Ruiz introduces Anza Community Hall volunteers, from left to right, Noel Donahue, Missy Carver Boulton, Mike Patke and Bill Donahue at the Cranston Fire Community Meeting hosted by the Anza Electric Cooperative Tuesday, July 31.

"I will never be able to thank this community for doing what you've done and controlling your own load," he said with emotion. "It's hot, I know that. But you have paid attention and reduced your load voluntarily by almost 50 percent. There was no other way it was going to work."

He said that more than 5,000 people had signed up for the text alerts and that it costs the cooperative about $750 a day to send out all the messages. He wanted to make sure people got information as quickly as possible and that social media, phones, website and emails were also utilized. He invited people to stop by the office as well.

In closing, Short thanked various agencies and persons.

All updates are posted on the AEC's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Anzaelectric, on their website at www.anzaelectric.org and on their text alert service.

More information on the fires can be found at the Cal Fire or US National Forest websites: www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents and https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6032/.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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