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California National Guard will help stranded, snowed-in residents in San Bernardino Mountains

Amblerlee Barden shovels snow after successive storms dumped several feet of snow blocking her driveway on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023 in Big Bear Lake, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Members of the California National Guard are set to arrive in the San Bernardino Mountains on Thursday afternoon to help people who have been trapped in their homes for several days by heavy snow, officials said.

Lake Arrowhead received more than 8 feet of snow in the last week as a series of winter storms blanketed mountain resorts and communities across California, according to the National Weather Service. Though the snowfall has eased up, many residents remain stranded as crews work around the clock to clear roads and highways.

The dire conditions have hampered local emergency response, with firefighters needing to use snowcats to shuttle crews and equipment.

On Thursday morning, firefighters in Lake Arrowhead responded to reports of an explosion at a home with surrounding trees on fire, according to the San Bernardino County Fire Department. Neighbors were digging out a nearby fire hydrant when crews arrived.

Wednesday evening in Blue Jay, firefighters had to dig through feet of snow to get to a hydrant at the scene of a structure fire that injured two people.

The arrival of the National Guard comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for 13 California counties on Wednesday. The proclamation provides resources to the hardest-hit counties in the state, including San Bernardino.

The California National Guard Joint Task Force Rattlesnake Unit was activated and expected to arrive in Lake Arrowhead on Thursday afternoon from Fresno, according to California Office of Emergency Management spokesperson Brian Ferguson. The unit typically works with Cal Fire in clearing vegetation and wildland firefighting.

The governor’s order also allows agencies such as the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, to contract with out-of-state contractors to clear the roads and provide other road maintenance services, Ferguson said.

“The hope is that this provides significant resources to support the county,” Ferguson said.

A rescue helicopter unit is on standby in Los Alamitos if San Bernardino agencies require its assistance, Lt. Col. Brandon Hill with the California National Guard said.


© 2023 Los Angeles Times

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