AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Philadelphia Row House Fire Allegedly Kills 13

Emergency and disaster management briefing for January 5, 2022: Officials are under fire for the lengthy stranding of vehicles on I-95 on Monday; recent rainfall allows Oroville Dam turbine operation to resume; UScellular announced it suffered a cyberattack in December; Pennsylvania State Police continue to investigate a bomb threat at a hotel on Monday night; the cleanup of radioactive/nuclear waste at a site in Idaho is nearing completion; a massive fire at a row house in Philadelphia reportedly killed 13 people; a report by officials in California cites PG&E as being at fault for starting the Dixie Fire; Highway 70 remains closed at the Butte/Plumas County line after a landslide became active again on Monday.

1. Officials are facing questions about how motorists became stranded for so long on Interstate 95 in Virginia during a snowstorm. Motorists were stranded – some for more than 20 hours – along a stretch of I-95 during the first winter storm of the season that pelted the East Coast on Monday. A 50-mile stretch of the roadway was packed full of vehicles that were unable to get off the interstate overnight Monday to Tuesday. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced on Tuesday evening that the roadway was finally clear of all vehicles and had fully reopened.

2. Recent rainfall has raised the water level at Lake Oroville in Butte County, California, permitting the power plant at the Oroville Dam to resume its operation. The lake has risen 76 feet in recent weeks, largely due to rainfall from several atmospheric rivers that have impacted the state since October. A single turbine was brought back online Tuesday, and as lake waters continue to rise, operation of the remaining turbines will resume.

3. The personal data of its customers was compromised after the billing system of UScellular was hacked in December of 2021. The company recently announced that they believe the incident occurred from December 13-19, allowing hackers to view customers’ account numbers and addresses. At this time, UScellular denies that any Social Security or credit card numbers were impacted by the breach.

4. The Pennsylvania State Police continue to investigate a bomb threat called into the Baymont Hotel in Summit Township on Monday at around midnight. The threat shut down Perry Highway (Route 97) in Chautauqua County for hours and prompted evacuations at area businesses. Bomb-sniffing K-9 units were used to clear each floor of the hotel, but no explosive devices were found.

5. The cleanup of radioactive and nuclear waste at a site in Idaho is nearing completion. The project, which began in 2005, targeted the removal of nuclear waste in unlined pits at a nuclear facility west of Idaho Falls. The facility, an 890-square-mile site, houses the Idaho National Laboratory. It contains a 97-acre landfill that accepted waste from the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado, where nuclear weapons were made.

6. A three-story row house caught fire Wednesday morning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, reportedly resulting in the deaths of at least 13 people. Several children were among those who allegedly died in the fire, which began in the early morning hours. Firefighters arrived on scene around 6:40 a.m., where they found the three-story row house already heavily engulfed in fire. It took firefighters nearly an hour to bring the fire under control.

7. Officials from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in an investigative report that Pacific Gas & Electric is at fault for starting the Dixie Fire. According to the report, transmissions lines west of a dam in the Sierra Nevada sparked after a tree fell on them during a storm. The Dixie Fire, which began on July 13, consumed nearly 1 million acres and destroyed 1,300 homes and other buildings across five counties in Northern California.

8. Highway 70 remains closed at the Butte/Plumas County line in California due to another active landslide. The highway was first closed in late October, after a landslide originating in the Dixie Fire burn scar dumped rocks and debris across the road. Although the roadway was opened briefly in December, the landslide has become active several times, the latest of which occurred on Monday, January 3. Adverse weather conditions prohibited work at the site Monday, when the landslide also reactivated.

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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