RIVERSIDE – At the request of Supervisors Jeff Stone and John J. Benoit, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors formally declared two local emergencies for the Mountain Fire and added recent and future potential flood damages to the county’s request for recovery funds.
The county is seeking assistance to recoup the costs for suppressing the now fully contained Mountain Fire and flooding. Other costs associated with the fire include evacuations, shelters, law enforcement personnel expenses, county roads and animal services. The proclamations ask for relief for these expenses through a presidential declaration, Small Business Administration disaster declaration and California Disaster Assistance Act funds.
The fire started in the San Jacinto mountains on July 15 and spread east of Mountain Center, through the Apple Canyon and Bonita Vista areas and along the Desert Divide and southern portion of the San Jacinto Wilderness. It threatened the nearby communities of Idyllwild, Pine Cove and Garner Valley.
A week later, heavy storm runoff sent mud and debris flows into the area, causing damage to the Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center retreat. For the next three to five years, county officials anticipate further flooding effects on fire-damaged areas and also Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and Palm Springs land and the flood control channels of the Tahquitz Dam and Outlet Channel and Palm Canyon Wash. Potential ramifications include flooding, mud and debris flows, road closures and evacuations of citizens and critical facilities.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation for the fire on July 19. The county has also requested a Governor’s proclamation for the second emergency pertaining to flooding.
Tuesday’s board actions ratify proclamations that were previously issued when the board was not in session. A county ordinance empowers Riverside County’s director of emergency services to proclaim the local emergency when warranted and necessitated by conditions of extreme peril, subject to subsequent board confirmation.