From local to state authorities, how has the multi-agency response to Blizzard ’23 worked? – San Bernardino Sun


As recovery efforts in the San Bernardino Mountains continue after a blizzard slammed the region, agencies like Cal Fire, the state National Guard and the California Office of Emergency Services, among others, have been called in to help local authorities.

But how has that worked on the ground?

State assistance is primarily following direction from local authorities and will stick around as long as they are needed, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Chloe Castillo. Cal Fire was first deployed to assist when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency March 1, she explained and will stick around until local authorities are able to handle the volume of service independently.

Those crews will do a variety of things, Castillo said, from removing snow from outside homes to putting chains on vehicles.

The Prado Conservation Camp, which is a Cal Fire crew comprised of incarcerated people, has also assisted in efforts to remove snow and assist residents with food, medicine, and other needs since Friday, March 3, Castillo added.

The California National Guard has also reported directly to Cal Fire during this response, according to spokesperson Sgt. Kim Hill.

Additional agencies have also deployed to the mountains to assist residents, including the Orange County Fire Authority and the Ontario, Riverside and Colton fire departments. Resources from the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans have also been helping with the mountain efforts.

“Crews are searching homes that have been impacted by large amounts of snowfall and making contact with residents in their homes,” OCFA Capt. Sean Doran said in an email. “We are proud to serve alongside all of our partners during this incident.”

Despite the multi-agency efforts, Linda Gaston said she feels the promised response has not panned out.

Before the blizzard, Gaston had been in hospice at her home since July due to cancer, heart, and lung failure, she said. But when the storm hit, the 42-year-old Crestline resident said she was snowed in without medication or hospice care for eight days before she was rescued by fire authorities on Friday, March 3, who used a Snow Cat to reach her.

For several days before her rescue, Gaston said she had made calls to the county emergency hotline, which has received several thousand requests for help amid the blizzard. Gaston added that the National Guard did not visit her neighborhood while she was still at home.

She said authorities dropped her off at St. Bernardine’s hospital in San Bernardino but did not follow up.

“I’m dying and I got left with nothing and nobody,” Gaston said. “Nobody was prepared, but this is stupid — to leave a dying woman with no services, no options.”

Her mother stayed behind in their Crestline home and has not yet received any contact from state or local officials, Gaston said. In the meantime, Gaston said she has been going between friends’ homes and has not received the hospice care she needs. For the past few days, she has been sleeping on a couch in Hemet, she said.

Gaston said she hopes authorities can assist her with finding hospice care.

Back in the mountains, Mary Bianca said Ontario’s fire crews assisted her with shoveling snow at the Lake Arrowhead home after she busked on a main road with cardboard signs asking for help. She said she had not seen the National Guard, but heard they were in the area.

Bianca also said the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has been sending residents messages, including one sent Tuesday evening that instructed residents to “text or call 911” if “trapped” inside their home.

Over in Skyforest, Natasha Wolpe said the National Guard knocked on her door for a general wellness check and to offer assistance with digging out her home’s gas meter from snow. It turned out she didn’t need assistance. But they also knocked on the door of her mother’s home nearby and ended up helping her, she said.



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