“At CSLEA, we never lose sight of the impactful, life-saving work that our members do, particularly in a widespread, statewide emergency. Our members don’t hesitate to jump in to coordinate resources and perform their public safety duties.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
An overview of emergency services work being provided by FMESA members by FMESA President and CSLEA Director BJ Jones
SACRAMENTO – At an unprecedented time when the state of California is experiencing bomb cyclones, atmospheric rivers, flooding, strong wind, damaged homes and roadways, power outages and even loss of life, California Statewide Law Enforcement Association(CSLEA) and Fire Marshal Emergency Services Association (FMESA) members at Cal OES are deployed throughout the state and at the Cal OES State Operations Center in response to various flood issues. They are law enforcement officers, fire-rescue personnel and emergency services coordinators (ESCs). Many of these public safety professionals are deployed geographically to County Emergency Operation Centers and are coordinating resource requests from the various operational areas. Cal OES prepositioned flood response resources and equipment throughout the state of California including California National Guard assets.
Examples of work performed include:
- coordinating evacuations,
- providing Law Enforcement Mutual Aid (LEMA) for both evacuations and security patrols for evacuated areas,
- providing logistical support
- providing equipment to support flood fighting operations,
- OES Law along with the Merced County Sheriff provided a tour of the hardest hit areas of Merced County for the Director of FEMA.
Bear Creek in Merced County had two levee breaks that flooded the McSwain Community located south of Atwater. More than 200 hundred structures including McSwain School were flooded due to the levee breaks. Evacuation orders were issued for the immediate area and evacuation warnings were issued for another 5000 South Atwater McSwain residents.
The Merced County Emergency Operations Center requested, through their assigned Region V Cal OES law enforcement coordinator, a heavy lift helicopter to assist. The California National Guard had prepositioned assets in Stockton and accepted the mission request. The 40th Combat Aviation Brigade provided a CH47 “Chinook” helicopter for Merced County. During their mission, they were able to transport 66, 2000 lbs. “super sacks” full of rocks/dirt and place them into the large levee breach of Bear Creek.
The communities of Planada, Gustine were also impacted by flooding. The town of Planada suffered the most damage in Merced County, basically the entire town was covered in water from the storms.
The statewide disasters in California have earned national interest.
- Newly elected Assemblymember Juan Alanis was one of many elected officials who visited Merced County. He served with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office as a Sergeant. Assemblyman Alanis was always a supporter of Cal OES Law Enforcement Search and Rescue (SAR) and the Law Enforcement Mutual Aid program (LEMA).
- Newly elected Congressman John Duarte also visited Merced County surveying the damage with Sheriff Warnke and District 3 Merced County Board of Supervisor Daron McDaniel.
- Governor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Ana Caballero and Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria also visited Merced County and toured the flood devastation.
The Merced County community has rallied. Many local ag and construction business have contributed heavy equipment, materials and staffing to solve the levee breach. Some, but not a complete list of those who helped close the breach on Bear Creek are Shawn Slate of CenCal Trucking, Joe Sansoni Ranch, and Mark Furtado. Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke was also instrumental in coordinating community members, heavy equipment, and various resources for flood fighting.
Chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen crew came to Merced and provided delicious food for evacuees, volunteers, and first responders for free. World Central Kitchen specializes in travelling the world feeding those who are in need. World Central Kitchen (wck.org)
On January 14, 2023, President Joe Biden approved a California Disaster Declaration. One of the first counties listed in this declaration was Merced County. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves California Disaster Declaration | The White House
In summary, there were more than 700 rescues conducted by the first responders, mostly by high water vehicles and watercraft owned by local public safety agencies. At one point nearly 25,000 people were on an evacuation warning and upwards of 9,000 were subject to an evacuation order. The bulk of these numbers were primarily the county and a portion of the City of Merced. As of January 17, 2023, 10,963 are under an evacuation warning with 10 under an evacuation order.
Members of CSLEA and FMESA are working long hours to respond to the needs of our fellow Californians in their time of need. We thank them for their service, hard work, time away from their families and their life-saving contributions to public safety.