(Apple Valley)– When it became clear that a vegetation fire at Mojave Narrows Regional Park had gotten out of control last week, it didn’t take long for several local agencies to pull together to provide services and information to the region. The River Bottom Fire served as an initiation for the new emergency management structure in Apple Valley, and all indications point to success.
“This incident, while certainly unfortunate, gave us a good indication that our new emergency management structure works very well,” said Town Manager Frank Robinson, who serves as the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Manager. “I am very proud of our emergency operations coordination between the Town, the School District, the Apple Valley Fire Protection District and the County. Our response worked beautifully.”
In January, the Town took over the management of emergency preparedness responsibilities that were previously managed by the fire district. This new structure designated staff member Joseph Ramos as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and added an additional part-time staff member in March to manage the Apple Valley CERT program and provide assistance in the Town’s emergency management operations. Ramos, who has worked for the town since 2006, has been training for the role and meeting weekly with the Fire Chief.
The San Bernardino County Operational Area activated the EOC at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday after the vegetation fire broke out while County Parks crews were doing a permitted burn to clear dead brush by Pelican Lake. The burn went out of control when the wind shifted and spread the fire over 185 acres.
“The coordination of services worked seamlessly because all of the entities involved have a commitment to the safety and well being of our community,” said Ramos.
As part of the emergency management structure, the School District was able to make necessary changes to bus routes and student release procedures to ensure the safety of students who lived in the affected areas.
“Thanks to the coordinated efforts of all organizations involved, students were kept safe and successfully reunited with their parents by 4:15 p.m.,” said Superintendent Tom Hoegerman.
EOC administrative support was handled at Town Hall while the Incident Command Center was set up at the Church for Whosoever. While Apple Valley Fire Protection District provided life safety measures, the Red Cross provided support for an evacuation center at Sitting Bull Academy, where the school district offered up space for those affected by mandatory evacuation orders in place until 7 p.m.
Fire and Sheriff’s personnel remained on the scene throughout the night to deal with hotspots and limit access to residents only, with the last crews conducting mop-up through Friday.
“Social media played an active part in keeping residents informed about what was happening every step of the way,” said Marketing and Public Affairs Officer Kathie Martin. “San Bernardino County Fire was the lead agency on the incident and served as the primary information source, while Town staff monitored and shared details from a dozen different sources, the majority of them social media.”