Under state law a county Board of Supervisors must ratify a Proclamation of Local Emergency within seven days after it is administratively issued. On May 20, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors not only ratified the May 14 Proclamation of Local Emergency issued by the county’s Chief Administrative Officer but also found that the need for a state of emergency no longer exists and appropriated $5 million for response and recovery efforts resulting from the fires which caused the state of emergency.
The initial fires broke out May 13, but additional fires began May 14 and began to burn out of control due to Santa Ana conditions including high temperatures, low humidity, and strong wind gusts. By 1:25 p.m. on May 14, multiple evacuations had been ordered and at least 20 structures had been destroyed.
Helen Robbins-Meyer, the county’s chief administrative officer, issued a Proclamation of Local Emergency. A Proclamation of Local Emergency is a prerequisite for the governor to proclaim a state of emergency in the county, which Governor Jerry Brown did shortly after the local proclamation was transmitted to the Office of the Governor.
A Proclamation of Local Emergency also provides legal immunity for emergency actions taken by local governments and public employees and allows the chief administrative officer and other authorized officials to take preventative measures necessary to protect and preserve public health and safety. The state declaration makes the county eligible for state and federal disaster relief assistance.
“The Proclamation of Local Emergency ensured the county was in the best position possible to not only respond to the fires but also transition to recovery,” said Supervisor Bill Horn.
Although the state of emergency was lifted, the county’s Emergency Operations Center remained on continuous activation as it had since May 14 and the county continued to deploy resources to the emergency response for evacuation and resident safety while beginning the recovery phase of the disaster.
During the recovery phase, the county will establish and equip local assistance centers and may dedicate staff to assist fire victims with the recovery process. Recovery activities may require the acquisition of equipment, supplies, and services for the initial phases of debris removal and soil erosion control.
Once detailed assessments and associated cost estimates are developed, Robbins-Meyer will request additional appropriations from the county supervisors, but the initial $5 million will help with the response to the needs of county residents. The $5 million was derived from the general fund contingency reserve and transferred to the county’s Office of Emergency Services.
“The high costs associated with unexpected emergencies are the reason we’ve maintained reserve funds and can cover costs without affecting other county programs and services,” Horn said.