County Wide Health Emergency Declared

County of Fresno DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
NEWS RELIEF

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Public Health Communication  September 18, 2020 (559) 259-1798 or (559) 974-2302 

Health Officer Declares a Local Health Emergency  Due to Hazardous Waste from the Creek Fire 

 Dr. Rais Vohra, Interim Health Officer, Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH) has signed the  attached document proclaiming the existence of a local health emergency due to waste, debris and ash  from structure fires containing hazardous substances from the recent Creek Fire in Fresno County and  surrounding areas commencing on or about 3:00pm on September 18, 2020. 

The Creek Fire ignited on September 4, 2020 and has burned over 248,256 acres with 20% containment.  The fire threatens over 8,611 structures and has destroyed 685 homes, 5 businesses and caused millions  of dollars in damage to public and private infrastructure. These destroyed or damaged structures pose a  risk to the public.  

Debris and ash from structure fires can contain hazardous substances, for example, building materials such  as siding, roofing titles, insulation, or household items such as paint, gasoline, cleaning products,  pesticides, compressed gas cylinders, and chemicals can result in dangerous ash that contains asbestos,  heavy metals, and other hazardous materials. 

Such waste is a threat to public health because hazardous waste can cause or significantly contribute to an  increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating reversible illness. Hazardous  debris that remains after a wildfire can expose residents to toxic materials, improper transport and disposal  of fire debris can create dangerous health impacts to workers removing the debris. This debris can threaten  water supplies and harmful material can spread throughout the community at large. 

The threat to public health creates the immediate need to facilitate assistance and undertake preventive  measures to protect the health of people and the environment and to inform the affected public of any  potential health issues associated with the hazardous waste created by the Creek Fire, warranting the  declaration of the existence of a local health emergency. 

This declaration shall remain in effect for no longer than seven (7) days unless ratified by the Fresno  County Board of Supervisors. For any additional questions, please call Public Health Communication at (559) 259-1798 or (559) 974- 2302. 

Promotion, preservation and protection of the community’s health 1221 Fulton Street, Fresno, CA 93721 P.O. Box 11867, Fresno, CA 93775 (559) 600-3200 FAX (559) 600-7687 

The County of Fresno is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer http://www.co.fresno.ca.us http://fcdph.org 

DECLARATION OF LOCAL HEALTH EMERGENCY  

BY THE COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER  

WHEREAS, California Health and Safety Code, Division 101, Part 3, Chapter 2, Article 2, Sections  101075 through 101095, confer upon Local Health Officers of the political subdivisions of the State of  California, emergency powers necessary to protect public health and safety; and    

WHEREAS, Section 101080 of the California Health and Safety Code provides that the Local Health  Officer may declare a local emergency in his jurisdiction or any area affected by the threat to public  health; and  

WHEREAS, Section 101080 of the California Health and Safety Code authorizes a Local Health  Officer to declare a local health emergency whenever the Local Health Officer reasonably determines  that hazardous waste or waste that may become hazardous waste, is an immediate threat to the public  health; and  

WHEREAS, Section 101075 of the California Health and Safety Code defines “Hazardous Waste” as  waste or combination of wastes, that because of its quality, concentration, or physical chemical, or  infectious characteristics may do any of the following: (1) cause, or significantly contribute to an  increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or (2)  pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or environment when improperly treated,  stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed; and  

WHEREAS, Section 101075 of the California Health and Safety Code defines “Waste” as either of the  following: (1) any material for which no use or reuse is intended and that is to be discarded; (2) any  material that spills, escapes, or is released from any manufacturing, industrial, commercial, or other  plant, facility, or process, or that escapes or is released during the transporting or transferring from one  place to another, or during the pumping, processing, storing, or packaging of any material in, to, or from  such a plant, facility, or process, or that enters or may enter an uncontained air space or a surface water  course that is not totally contained on the contiguous property of the plant, facility, or process, or which  enters, or may enter, the groundwater underlying such plant, facility, or process.  

WHEREAS, Section 101080 of the California Health and Safety Code subjects the Local Health  Officer’s declaration of local health emergency to ratification by the Board of Supervisors within seven  days and reaffirmation of the need to continue the local health emergency at least once every thirty days  thereafter until such health emergency is terminated; and 

WHEREAS, on September 6, 2020, Governor Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to exist in  Fresno, Madera, and Mariposa Counties as a result of the Creek Fire, and made available State resources  to assist in combating the wildfire; and  

WHEREAS, on September 10, 2020, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Fresno ratified the  proclamation by the Emergency Services Director and adopted a resolution proclaiming the local  emergency status; and  

WHEREAS, the County of Fresno will seek state and federal assistance for emergency mitigation of  hazardous wastes and substances that may pose a threat to residents and the environment; and 

WHEREAS, this wildfire continues to threaten people and destroy homes; and  

WHEREAS, approximately 244,000 acres have burned, and the wildfire is eighteen percent contained;  and  

WHEREAS, 685 homes and 5 businesses have been destroyed and hundreds of millions of dollars in  damages to public and private infrastructure has occurred; and  

WHEREAS, the County of Fresno Health Officer hereby finds as follows:  

1. Debris and ash from structure fires can contain hazardous substances. For example,  building materials such as siding, roofing titles, insulation, or household items such as paint, gasoline,  cleaning products, pesticides, compressed gas cylinders, and chemicals can result in dangerous ash that  contains asbestos, heavy metals, and other hazardous materials; and  

2. Such waste is a threat to public health because it is hazardous waste and can cause or  significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating  reversible illness; or pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or environment when  improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of, or otherwise managed; and    

3. Hazardous debris that remains after a wildfire can expose residents to toxic materials,  improper transport and disposal of fire debris can create dangerous health impacts to workers removing  the debris, such debris can threaten water supplies, and such harmful material can spread throughout the  community at large; and  

4. A person with heart or lung disease, an older adult, children (including teenagers), a  person with diabetes, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the presence of such hazardous  waste; and  

5. The threat to public health creates the immediate need to facilitate assistance and  undertake preventive measures to protect the health of people and the environment and to inform the  affected public of any potential health issues associated with the hazardous waste created by the Creek  Fire, thereby warranting the declaration of the existence of a local health emergency; and   

6. Regardless of cause, any commercial or domestic structure fires which have or will occur  in Fresno County from the time the Creek Fire began until the conclusion of the local health emergency  will significantly contribute to the hazardous waste load; and  

7. Assistance to private property owners and to others within Fresno County is needed for  timely implementation of necessary preventative measures to protect public health and the environment;  and  

8. The scope and breadth of the Creek Fire hazardous waste cleanup requires a rapid  response due to the large area affected, the location of the fire, the number of structures damaged or  destroyed and the imminent threat to public health; and  

9. The potential beginning of the rainy season offers little time to mitigate further  environmental contamination, including contamination of the watershed, and, therefore, time is of the  essence in removing hazardous waste from property sites; and  

10. That the protection of the County’s natural resources and watershed from fire related  debris runoff needs to be addressed; and  

11. Immediate action is necessary to mitigate the harm that could be caused to the public  health and safety and to the environment from improper disturbance, removal, and/or disposal of  hazardous waste, including but not limited to toxic, flammable, corrosive, and reactive materials from  property sites located within the Creek Fire area because such debris can create dangerous health  impacts.  

NOW, THEREFORE, THE FRESNO COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER DECLARES  as follows: 

1. A local health emergency exists in Eastern Fresno County’s mountain communities due  to the hazardous waste and materials created by the Creek Fire, and that such condition may be  exacerbated by the ongoing fires and upcoming rainy season and will continue until the conclusion of  this local health emergency.  

2. During the existence of said local health emergency, the powers, functions, and duties of  the Fresno County Local Health Officer shall be those prescribed by state law, including the provisions  of Section 101085 of the California Health and Safety Code, and any ordinances and resolutions  approved by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.  

3. In connection with the foregoing declaration of local health emergency, the Fresno  County Health Officer orders that immediate action be taken to remove the hazardous waste from  property sites within the Creek Fire area that are toxic, flammable, corrosive, or reactive and create an  imminent threat to public health and safety. 

4. A Local Health Emergency is declared in Fresno County commencing on or about 3:00pm on the 18 day of September 2020.  

This declaration shall remain in effect for no longer than seven (7) days unless ratified by the Fresno  County Board of Supervisors.  

Date: __September 18, 2020______ _____________________________________ Rais Vohra, MD  

Interim County Health Officer  

Fresno County  

Department of Public Health