AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Monday Briefing: California Brushfire Likely Started by Arsonists

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for May 17, 2021: A train carrying ammonium nitrate derailed in Iowa and prompted an evacuation of area residents; Egyptian officials announced plans to deepen and widen the Suez Canal; a 1,300-acre brushfire in California, likely started by arsonists, prompted the evacuation of at least 1,000 people; the NHC began issuing Tropical Weather Outlooks on Saturday; scientists report that neutrons are rising in an inaccessible room in the defunct Chernobyl Nuclear Plant; a new regional fire academy is set to launch this summer in Joplin, Missouri.; a webinar designed to assist agencies in developing counter-IED capabilities is scheduled for June 24; New Jersey firefighters are working to contain a nearly 900-acre forest fire; and the DarkSide cybercriminal networks have allegedly gone dark after law enforcement reportedly seized their assets.

1. A train derailment in northwest Iowa Sunday afternoon prompted an evacuation due to hazardous materials. The incident occurred about 2 p.m. in Sibley, in Osceola County, and residents in a five-mile radius were ordered to evacuate. According to reports, the railroad is operated by Union Pacific. About 47 cars derailed — some of them containing ammonium nitrate and fertilizer — and caught fire, sending toxic black smoke billowing into the air.

2. Last week, plans to deepen and widen the Suez Canal were announced by Egyptian officials. The decision follows the grounding and blockage of the Suez Canal by the massive container ship, the Ever Given, in late March. It took six days to dig the ship out, and the blockage delayed hundreds of ships and their movements of cargo, impacting the global supply chain.

3. A brushfire in the affluent Pacific Palisades and Topanga Canyon neighborhoods prompted the evacuations of at least 1,000 people. The fire, which grew to more than 1,300 acres, is believed to have been started by arson. The fire spread swiftly amid swift wind gusts and parched vegetation due to the state’s severe and ongoing drought.

4. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) began issuing Tropical Weather Outlooks on Saturday. Although hurricane season begins June 1, a historic formation of tropical systems prior to the June 1 season start date prompted the change at the NHC. Currently, there is potential for a weak tropical system to develop in the Gulf of Mexico later this week.

5. Neutrons are rising in a room that remains inaccessible at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in Ukraine. The basement room, 305/2, is under the New Safe Confinement shelter that was built in 2019 to prevent the release of radioactive contamination. The recent spike in neutrons is a result of nuclear reactions among the uranium fuel masses in the basement room. According to reports, it may indicate that another explosion is possible, although scientists are working to remove the nuclear waste by September.

6. A new regional fire academy is set to launch in Joplin, Missouri, this summer. The academy is being launched by the Joplin Fire Department, the city of Joplin, and Missouri Southern State University’s (MSSU) College of Health Sciences. The academy will offer employers a pool of firefighters who have already been trained, thereby reducing their initial investment resources.

7. A webinar on building counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) capabilities with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Security and Resiliency Guide (SRG)  is scheduled for June 24, 2021. The webinar will help attendees develop a greater understanding of the IED threat, cover the C-IED preparedness planning effort, and allow participants to obtain information to help support existing or new preparedness efforts. Visit CISA’s registration page for more information and to register for the webinar.

8. New Jersey firefighters continue to battle a large wildfire in the Bass River State Forest. The blaze, which began around 4 p.m. on Saturday, has grown to nearly 900 acres and is burning east of the Garden State Parkway. Firefighters noted that about 100 structures are at risk and are asking everyone to avoid the area as they continue working to contain the fire.

9. DarkSide, the cybercrime syndicate that allegedly launched the cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, reportedly had its assets seized by law enforcement. All of the cybercrime’s websites on the Dark Web are now offline and cannot be accessed. Cyber experts fear the shutdown is simply a scam and that DarkSide will rebrand and continue its operations, likely undetected by authorities.

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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