RIDGECREST — Public safety officials at a press conference on Sunday at Ridgecrest City Hall said that now things appear to have settled down following a set of powerful earthquakes on Thursday and Friday, the time has come to reflect on what occurred and move forward.
“Right after the 7.1 and 6.4 we were extremely inundated with calls for service,” Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin said. “After those calls calmed down, we’ve transitioned into keeping our community safe and inundating these streets with several patrol officers.
“Now that that has calmed down, it is time for recovery,” McLaughlin said. “We will now move into the recovery process but we will continue to actively patrol and keep our community safe.”
The 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the Ridgecrest area at 10:33 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, prompting at least one structure fire, vegetation fires and gas leaks. Power lines were knocked down, power disrupted and nerves rattled. People evacuated structures following the earthquake and aftershocks that followed.
The larger 7.1 magnitude struck Ridgecrest Friday night at 8:19 p.m., causing a massive amount of calls for service, gas leaks and power disruption in several parts of the city.
McLaughlin said the city’s infrastructure remains safe and intact.
“All of our roads and sidewalks, gutters have been inspected and they are in good condition,” he said. “Our wastewater treatment facility is completely operational. Our transit system will resume operations tomorrow (Monday).”
“Our water system is fully operational,” he said. “There is no need and has been no need through this to boil water. All leaks have been passed to customer service and structural integrity has been tested throughout.”
McLaughlin said a town hall has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at the Kerr McGee Center, 100 California Ave., for further assistance.
“We will have representatives who will talk about what we need now in the recovery process,” McLaughlin said. “We will have an email set up to ask people to submit information to their property.”
The email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Information will be provided to include what the city needs for structural damage assessment.
“We will also be bringing in spiritual and professional help to assist people mentally in the recovery process,” McLaughlin said. “To get back to a normal life, it is important we get the help we need to move past the experience and resume a normal life.”
According to Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, RRH had opened as of noon Sunday, after some areas were affected by plumbing or flooding issues.
McLaughlin thanked Kern County as a whole for its support, including all of its agencies that sent aid to Ridgecrest following the aftermath of the first earthquake and through the 7.1 magnitude that hit Friday night.
“I have to thank the EOC in Bakersfield and (Kern County Emergency Services Director) Georgina Armstrong and her people, Cal EOS, Kern County Fire Department,” he said.
Kern County Fire Battalion 7 Chief Dioniso Mitchell said fire department operations are transitioning back to local control.
“Things have started to slow down, which is nice, so we will transition our initial response crews back into their home units,” he said. Kern County Fire will resume control of normal fire operations from the unified incident command.
“However, he noted that a lot of cooperating agencies that responded, as well as Office of Emergency Service Equipment, will be placed into an active and ready reserve,” he said. “They are still within Ridgecrest city limits and ready to go if we do something that presents itself in any shape or form of any natural disaster.”
Eight fire departments came up from Southern California to assist in the operations to assist with the 7.1 magnitude earthquake.
“We received that help quickly so we are thankful for that,” Mitchell said. “Currently those men and women are still here today and standing by in case we have any further need for them — we are waiting and seeing what will happen.”
He said it was important that help came up and that Ridgecrest Police Department had its emergency operations center still up.
He praised KCFD’s logistics team, citing that it was important to take care of all the agencies.
He also praised McLaughlin’s department for its effort in responding to the crisis at hand.
“Anytime you go through a 7.1 earthquake with no report of a fatality, major injury or not suffer structural damage that was of significance, I would say that is a blessing and a miracle,” Mitchell said.
McLaughlin said that that teams are currently out assessing structural damage to facilities, including the local schools.
Andrew Freeborn, Kern County Fire’s public information officer, encouraged everyone to sign up for the county’s Smart911 system and ReadyKern.com. program.
“These are the tools that will help our dispatchers and notify you in case of an emergency through automated notification systems,” he said. “To those watching outside of Kern County, do not miss the opportunity to plan for a disaster. Turn to your local law and fire departments to look for advice. What can I do to prepare my family if something happens? What can I do if I am in a car when something happens? These are all things we can take advantage of before an emergency happens.”