The city of Ridgecrest continues to assess widespread damage caused by two earthquakes last week, but all levels of government have aligned to help the community’s ongoing recovery efforts.
With the Kern County Board of Supervisors approving a proclamation of local emergency on Tuesday, the county is set to receive aid from both federal and state agencies.
A 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked Ridgecrest and the surrounding region on the Fourth of July, followed by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake a day later.
While Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said city officials were nearing the completion of a damage assessment from the busy weekend, at least four structure fires are believed to have been started as a result of the earthquake, with one residence burning to the ground.
However, while fire damage is easily visible, damage from earthquakes can be hard to detect without expertise, delaying the damage assessment released by the city.
The cracks that form from earthquakes require building inspectors to look through the interiors of homes and businesses.
What’s more, many personal items were ruined in the city as a result of the earthquake.
“You go into my house or anyone’s house, you see nothing left on the walls, and at my house you still don’t see anything on the walls because we’re still afraid of another earthquake,” Supervisor Mick Gleason said at the meeting. “You see family heirlooms shattered on the ground, you see pottery. You see all your wives or husbands — things you hold dear — broken. It’s just significant when you open the door and walk in.”
While the county reported at the meeting that nearly all the county-owned buildings made it out of the earthquakes relatively unscathed, repairs still need to be made, and those repairs can be disastrous to the general funds of local governments.
County roads also made it through the earthquakes in relatively good condition.
But, along with the supervisors, Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for both Kern County and San Bernardino County, and President Donald Trump has approved an emergency declaration for the state of California.
The president’s declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance to communities around Ridgecrest.
The agency said in an email that application procedures for the state will be explained in a series of briefings in the near future. Approved projects will be paid through the state from funding provided by FEMA, according to the agency.
Newsom’s proclamation authorizes the state to pick up 75 percent of eligible repair costs, lightening the load for local governments.
The state’s costs will also be alleviated by the president’s declaration.
For the moment, though, local officials are focused on getting the residents of Ridgecrest what they need.
“We’re in recovery support mode,” said County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. “We’re just making sure that Ridgecrest gets back on their feet.”
Many of the repairs will likely take months, if not years. But as residents have started to rebuild, many have noted their appreciation for aid from the county.
“I can’t tell you how impressed and how thankful the people of Ridgecrest are with the performance of Kern County as a whole,” Gleason said. “The culture is there in Kern County to take care of its own.”