‘There’s No One to Help You Right Now’: 911 Calls Released From Deadly Firestorm

The Camp Fire consumes a house in Paradise, California on Nov. 8, 2018.

The Camp Fire consumes a house in Paradise, California on Nov. 8, 2018. Noah Berger / AP File Photo


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Alaska localities decry governor’s budget cuts … a Texas city with 400,000 people and no transit system … and Ohio River flooding.

Good morning, it’s Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. Emergency management leads this morning’s Route Fifty state and local government news roundup but scroll down for more from places like Massac County, Illinois; Tacoma, Washington; and Erie County, New York. … ALSO IN ROUTE FIFTY … Coalition of Governors Push Restoration of State, Local Tax DeductionRepublican Governors Want Trade War With China Over QuicklyCoalition of Governors Push to Restore State, Local Tax DeductionReworking Probation as Part of Criminal Justice Reform … and Sending Queso to the Moon

Let’s get to it …

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT | CalFire has released an initial batch of 911 calls—two hours worth of recordings—from the Camp Fire as it consumed the Northern California community of Paradise on the morning of Nov. 8. A review of those calls and those released from city and county agencies, represents “just a sliver of that morning’s panic and confusion,” according to the Chico Enterprise-Record. “Throughout it all, just two communications operators and a fire captain handled hundreds of calls calmly and quickly, with limited resources, in a rapidly changing situation.” Among the gut-wrenching exchanges between callers and operators was one where five people were trapped inside a fenced-in area at an elementary school surrounded by the advancing fire: “There’s no one to help you right now,” an operator says. “If you need to drive through a fence, then do it.” [Chico Enterprise-Record] ... A strong winter storm across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes brought blizzard conditions to parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan this weekend and created treacherous travel conditions. The Minnesota Department of Transportation closed many highways in the southern part of the state, including Interstates 35 and 90, and reported white out conditions and major snow drifts. The Minnesota National Guard worked to rescue stranded motorists and opened emergency shelters. The Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, was closed after a large chunk of ice fell from bridge and through a car’s windshield. [MnDOT; Minnesota Public Radio; @MnDPS_HSEM; UpNorthLive] … In southern Illinois, emergency management officials in Massac County have been asking for volunteers to help fill sandbags to protect the city of Brookport from the rising waters of the Ohio River, which is expected to crest on March 2 at 53.5 feet. [WSIL; WPSD]

GOVERNORS | In an executive action, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has disbanded the state’s climate response task force that was formed by his predecessor, Bill Walker. Meanwhile, Dunleavy’s proposed state budget cuts are not going over well with Alaska’s municipal leaders. “Very quickly, we can ascertain that the proposed budget is less about state budget cuts and more about cost-shifting to lower levels of government,” according to a joint statement from the Alaska Conference of Mayors and Alaska Municipal League. [Alaska Public Media; Fairbanks Daily News-Miner] … Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says he won’t allow any executions in the state until there’s a new way to carry them out. “Ohio is not going to execute someone under my watch when a federal judge has found it to be cruel and unusual punishment.” DeWine, who has been in the nation’s capital for the National Governors Association winter meeting, is considering reopening the state’s federal affairs office in D.C., which had been shuttered by then-Gov. John Kasich. [WCMH; Dayton Daily News] … Nevada Gov. John Sisolak is also D.C. for the NGA winter meeting, but is boycotting events at the White House, “a reaction to the Department of Energy’s secret shipment of a half-ton of weapons-grade plutonium to a federal facility north of Las Vegas last year, and the administration’s failure to respond to a letter the governor sent to the administration seeking information after he learned of the covert shipment in January.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

CITY HALLS | In Tacoma, Washington, the City Council will be considering new rules that would allow accessory dwelling units in backyards, but not “tiny houses” on wheels. “Detached and attached accessory dwelling units are required to have permanent foundations.” [Tacoma News Tribune] … Kansas City Mayor Sly James wants is pushing to bring a preschool-for-all program to his city. [Fox4KC] ... In Las Cruces, New Mexico, City Councilor Greg Smith is proposing a plan to change the city charter to allow mayors to serve two six-year terms. [Las Cruces Sun-News]

A cross-section of the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco, with the lower-level built train "box" for a future rail station. (via Transbay Joint Powers Authority 

TRANSPORTATION & MOBILITY | In San Francisco, there are worries that the three-block-long train box built underneath the new Transbay Transit Center to accommodate a future CalTrain rail extension into downtown San Francisco may not be big enough to accommodate enough trains projected to travel on the commuter rail line. [San Francisco Chronicle] … Arlington, Texas, a booming suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth with 400,000 residents, is one of the largest U.S. cities to not have a public transit system. [Dallas Morning News] … Considering the number of times Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles is closed during publicity campaigns and special events, like the Oscars, it might be time to revisit the idea of permanently closing the congested thoroughfare to vehicular traffic. [Curbed LA]

PUBLIC HEALTH | Amid ongoing measles outbreaks in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere in the U.S., the Arizona House Health and Human Services Committee last week passed three bills expanding vaccine exemptions. [Arizona Republic / AZCentral] … Although there have been no new confirmed cases in Clark County, Washington—there are 65 confirmed cases—across the river in Portland, Oregon, public health officials in Multnomah County are investigating a new possible case. [The Columbian; KOIN] … In western New York, an Erie County restaurant inspector resigned after he was discovered to be falsifying inspection reports. [WKBW]

Welcome to Key West, Florida (Shutterstock)

LAND USE | Officials in Monroe County, Florida, which includes the Florida Keys, are preparing to be face lawsuits from property owners starting in 2023. That’s when officials will be required to stop issuing building permits for new construction in the Keys, “a stipulation of a 1970s state mandate aimed at controlling development in the environmentally sensitive archipelago and ensuring timely evacuation of tourists and residents in the path of hurricanes.” [Miami Herald]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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