AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Monday Briefing: Dixie Fire Burn Scar Poses Secondary Threats

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for October 18, 2021: Seventeen missionaries were kidnapped in Haiti; water levels in Lake Tahoe have dropped below the lake’s natural rim; secondary impacts from the massive Dixie Fire burn scar, including debris flows, are highly likely; rainfall sparked massive PG&E power outages in the Bay Area; a prescribed fire jumped containment lines and prompted evacuations in Santa Cruz County; a joint warning regarding cyberattacks by national intelligence officials was issued to allegedly vulnerable water treatment plants; the DEA launched its One Pill Can Kill campaign to help combat potentially deadly counterfeit prescription drugs; and the debate continues regarding the vital need for PFAS chemicals over their possible danger.

1. Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries announced that 17 missionaries, including children, were kidnapped in Haiti. According to reports, the kidnapping occurred Saturday when the missionaries were visiting an orphanage. Sixteen of the people kidnapped were from the United States, and one person was from Canada. Allegedly, the 400 Mawozo Gang is responsible for the kidnapping; this group controls an area east of Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital city.

2. The water level at Lake Tahoe has dropped below its natural rim, cutting off water flow to the Truckee River. The lack of water flow will most likely impact Kokanee salmon spawning, which aligns with the U.S. Forest Service’s cancellation of an annual fall festival that celebrates the salmon migration. Although the low lake level is not unusual, it has been made worse by wildfires including the Caldor Fire, which swept through South Lake Tahoe neighborhoods and also affected the lake’s water clarity.

3. The Dixie Fire is near full containment, and as mop up continues, the huge burn scar is likely to pose area hazards as wetter weather moves into the area. In the Plumas County area, forests suffered about 60% damage, and forests were completely destroyed in other locations. According to reports, soil conditions are severe, and rain and snow this winter season are likely to cause various rock, mud, and debris slides. Those slides will impact roads and highways within and below the Dixie Fire burn scar.

4. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) reported that over 35,000 customers remained without power on Sunday night in the San Francisco Bay Area. The outages were caused by wet weather across the area, which led to damaged power poles, including several power poles that caught fire. Officials noted that a buildup of dust, dirt, and other debris on power lines from months of no rain turns to mud when it rains. That mud conducts electricity, which damaged power lines and caused the outages.

5. A prescribed fire escaped firefighters in Santa Cruz County, California, on Friday and prompted evacuation warnings for area residents. The fire is now 60% contained, and evacuation orders were downgraded to warnings midday on Saturday. Dubbed the Estrada Fire, firefighters are unsure what caused the blaze to jump containment lines Friday afternoon and flash across hilly terrain covered by oak trees and grass.

6. In a recent joint memo, national intelligence officials allegedly gave details on confirmed cyberattacks at U.S. water and wastewater facilities. The memo allegedly identified the recent attacks and offered guidance to critical infrastructure operators on how to avoid being targeted by hackers. A joint warning was issued regarding the ongoing hacks, many of which target the use of outdated software allegedly used by water treatment plants, leaving them susceptible to cyberattacks.

7. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has launched its “One Pill Can Kill” campaign. The campaign is meant to combat the increase in fake prescription pills that contain fentanyl and methamphetamine. The counterfeit pills seized coming across the border in 2021 has been more than the past two years combined – for a record 9.5 million pills seized so far this year. The majority of the counterfeit pills have at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is considered a lethal dose. The counterfeit pills are substituted for Oxycodone, Alprazolam, and amphetamine, which are heavily abused prescription drugs across the United States.

8. PFAS – or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – are known as forever chemicals, which allegedly contaminate the air and water indefinitely. The PFAS chemicals consist of more than 5,000 man-made compounds that have been used to make consumer and household products since the 1940s. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledges that there are adverse human health outcomes from PFAS chemicals; however, the full impact is allegedly unknown. Currently, the chemicals are in use at more than 120,000 locations across the nation, and a debate between their vital need in modern society and their dangers is underway.

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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