Friday, January 12, 2018 - 12:15 External News

The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice.

The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed.

As their names and those of 14 other victims were released Thursday, crews kept digging through the muck and rubble looking for more people.

The number of reported deaths from the mudslide has reached 17.

“At this moment, we are still looking for live victims,” Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney said. But he confessed: “The likelihood is increasing that we’ll be finding bodies, not survivors. You have to start accepting the reality of that.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 - 10:00 External News

(TNS) - At least 13 people were killed Tuesday when a rainstorm sent mud and debris coursing through Montecito neighborhoods and left rescue crews to scramble through clogged roadways and downed trees to search for victims.

The deluge that washed over Santa Barbara County early Tuesday was devastating for a community that was ravaged by the Thomas fire only a few weeks earlier. In just a matter of minutes, pounding rain overwhelmed the south-facing slopes above Montecito and flooded a creek that leads to the ocean, sending mud and massive boulders rolling into residential neighborhoods, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason.

At least 25 other people were injured, authorities said at an afternoon press conference. Crews rescued 50 people by air and dozens more from the ground.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - 07:00 External News

It was not until 1970 that Congress, under President Richard Nixon, passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act. There were 14,000 workplace fatalities that year. As part of the act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, was established to set and enforce safety standards in the workplace. Since then, standards have improved and workplace fatalities have declined to less than 5,200 in 2016. Still, some jobs remain far more dangerous than others.

Today, the vast majority of working Americans are relatively safe in their work environment. Across all industries in both the public and private sectors, there were 3.6 deaths for every 100,000 full-time workers. For certain professionals, such as school teachers and administrators or writers and editors, mistakes almost never have physical ramifications, and workplace fatality rates hover just above zero.

Monday, January 8, 2018 - 09:15 External News

(TNS) — Doug Reynolds didn't like the feeling of resignation that swept over him as he learned of one horrific mass shooting after another.

Twenty-six people had lost their lives in the house of the Lord in November, gunned down during Sunday services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

A few weeks prior, 58 others were shot dead and 489 injured at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas.

He thought of the dozens killed at Orlando's Pulse nightclub a year before that, and realized that although he couldn't stop the pace of mass shootings, he might be able to help in another way.

"It was kind of cumulative. The recurring theme always is that people are dying because they’re bleeding to death," said Reynolds, 58, of Farmington.

Monday, January 8, 2018 - 07:45 External News

REPORTING FROM MONTECITO, Calif. — In the mountains above coastal Santa Barbara County, the vegetation is typically so deep and lush that it can soak up a half-inch of rainwater before it flows downhill.

But that was before the Thomas fire swept through in December, burning those trees and brush to the ground. Now, the rain has no buffer, and that is cause for alarm.

"It hits the dirt directly and it is instant runoff and carries that sediment," Thomas D. Fayram, the deputy public works director for the county, told concerned residents at a community meeting several weeks ago.

Southern California is about to get its first significant rainstorm in nearly a year this week, with more than 4 inches of rain expected in burn areas.

Monday, January 8, 2018 - 10:45 External News

(TNS) — North Bay lawmakers have introduced a bill to bolster the ability of emergency officials to contact residents who may be in harm’s way — a topic that has been scrutinized since last year’s devastating wildfires.

The legislation, introduced by multiple lawmakers, including state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, would create uniform statewide emergency notification protocols. It also would require all counties to develop and adopt guidelines for using Wireless Emergency Alerts, a federally administered system that can send Amber Alert-style messages to cell phones in a disaster area.

As The Chronicle and others have reported, many North Bay residents said they received no official warning and were blindsided by the rapidly spreading flames that sparked in multiple counties in October.

Sunday, January 7, 2018 - 07:00 External News

California’s rainy season last year may have replenished reservoirs in most parts of the state after a long, crippling drought, but the precipitation largely bypassed an area northwest of Los Angeles, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Santa Barbara is now in its seventh year of drought and there are worries that similar conditions will return elsewhere in the Golden State.

Under these difficult circumstances, incoming rain—like the heavy precipitation that’s expected this week in parts of Southern California—would be welcomed as good news. But that’s not necessarily the case in the areas impacted by recent wildfires, including Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, where upwards of 4 inches of rains is predicted through Tuesday evening in some spots.

Thursday, January 4, 2018 - 10:30 External News

(TNS) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen became the first Cabinet-level official in the Trump administration to tour Northern California’s wildfire devastation, saying Wednesday that the White House would fully back recovery efforts.

Nielsen’s visit to Santa Rosa didn’t come with any new financial commitments, but it marked a show of support for California as the state muscles for a share of billions of dollars in federal aid being earmarked for states and U.S. territories devastated by hurricanes and other disasters in 2017.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 10:45 External News

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made federal disaster assistance available to California to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires from Dec. 4, 2017 and continuing.

Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work due to wildfires in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, according to FEMA.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 10:45 External News

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supported 59 major disaster declarations and 16 emergency declarations in 2017, a year during which unprecedented disasters affected more than 25 million Americans, almost eight percent of the U.S. population.

In its year-end review, FEMA notes it was a record busy year for FEMA employees and for state and local emergency responders across the country, as well for the federal flood insurance program, which FEMA manages. Thousands of emergency workers remain engaged in recovery efforts including in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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