L.A. races to fix vulnerable buildings before next major earthquake

Fifty-two people died in the collapse of several concrete structures, including buildings at the San Fernando Veterans Administration Hospital, above, in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. Such structures are targets for seismic retrofits in L.A. (Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times)
By Rong-Gong Lin II

When Los Angeles two years ago approved the nation’s most sweeping earthquake retrofitting regulations, officials knew they were in a race against time.

The law requires the retrofitting of hundreds of brittle concrete buildings, one of the most vulnerable types of structures in California.

But experts have worried that a major earthquake will hit Southern California before the deadline to fix the buildings comes.

“Chances are it will happen before that 25-year deadline,” California seismic safety commissioner Kit Miyamoto said.

There is a 60% chance that a magnitude 6.7 earthquake — the size of the 1994 Northridge temblor — or larger will strike the Los Angeles area in the next 30 years, said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Morgan Page.

L.A.’s effort is now hitting a key milestone, with the city issuing orders to owners of roughly 1,500 concrete buildings in Los Angeles believed to be at risk, which dot the city from downtown to the Westside to the San Fernando Valley.

City officials began sending out orders before Thanksgiving following the catastrophic September earthquakes in Mexico, in which many of the dead were killed by concrete building collapses.

The concrete Enrique Rebsamen school collapsed in Mexico City during Tuesday’s earthquake. At least 25 bodies were carried out — 21 were students, believed to be 7 or 8 years old. Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times

For property owners who receive the orders, the financial toll could be considerable. Retrofitting could cost millions of dollars.

Currently, there are no public subsidies available to help pay for the work. Some owners have expressed concerns about how they will pay.

Once the owners are sent an order to comply with the law, they are first given a three-year deadline to hand in a report to confirm whether the building is brittle concrete and whether it needs to be retrofitted. If the building is found to be vulnerable, owners are given seven more years to file to the city plans to retrofit or demolish the building. They’ll then have 15 more years to complete the retrofit or demolition.

The deadly nature of brittle concrete buildings became clear in Los Angeles nearly half a century ago, when 52 people died in the collapse of several concrete structures, including hospital buildings, in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. Concrete buildings fell again in 1994 during the Northridge quake. Efforts in the 1990s to fix the buildings died amid concerns from property owners about the costs.

Cyclists roll past the remains of the concrete Kaiser Permanente clinic and office building in Granada Hills that collapsed during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Jonathan Alcorn / For The Times

But in 2015, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti pushed through the seismic retrofitting rules and was backed by the City Council on a 12-0 vote.

Raoul Rañoa / @latimesgraphics

More recent earthquakes worldwide also highlighted the danger of concrete buildings. The collapse of just two concrete buildings in New Zealand’s third-largest city, Christchurch, killed two out of every three people who perished in the 2011 earthquake there; the final death toll was 185. During Mexico’s Sept. 19 earthquake, about 40 buildings collapsed in the capital; many were concrete.

The upper stories at this seven-story office building on Avenida Alvaro Obregon in Mexico City collapsed, leaving entire floors stacked like pancakes. The death toll was 49 at this one building alone. Rong-Gong Lin II / Los Angeles Times

Earthquake experts say that as many as 50 brittle concrete buildings in the city of L.A., housing thousands of people, could collapse in an earthquake.

Which buildings collapse depends in part on where the earthquake strikes and how big it is.

Miyamoto, the state seismic safety commissioner, says an unretrofitted L.A. hit hard by an earthquake could look like Mexico City did three months ago.

“I’m proud that L.A. is leading the effort [on concrete buildings], globally speaking,” Miyamoto said. “However, 25 years? Come on…. This needs to be something like a five- to 10-year effort.

“What we saw in Mexico City, we’re going to see an even bigger deal in L.A.,” said Miyamoto, a structural engineer.

The brittle concrete Pyne Gould Corp. building collapsed when the magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand. It was built in the 1960s. Hannah Johnston / Getty Images

Shortly after the Mexico earthquake struck, Garcetti urged owners to retrofit buildings far ahead of the city deadline.

“Mexico City should be a reminder that we shouldn’t sit back and congratulate ourselves and pray between now and 2042 we’ll be OK,” the mayor said in September. “Let’s figure out a way to get to work now.”

Some owners have already begun calling up structural engineers to figure out how to proceed as they make decisions about upcoming renovations, said David Cocke, a spokesman for the Structural Engineers Assn. of Southern California.

Interest is also picking up on the Westside after Santa Monica and West Hollywood in 2017 passed their own concrete retrofit laws.

Earthquakes have hit before mandatory retrofit deadlines have passed before.

In the Central California town of Paso Robles, officials identified the iconic Acorn building in 1989 as a hazardous brick building. It collapsed during an earthquake in 2003, killing two shop employees. The owner had until 2018 to retrofit it. A jury awarded the families of the dead nearly $2 million, concluding that the owners were negligent in not making the building safer.

Brittle concrete buildings were built with a flaw — not enough steel in the right configuration to keep concrete caged and prevent it from exploding outside building columns during an earthquake.

Some of these buildings have already been retrofitted; Los Angeles requires retrofits when an old building that was once, say, an office or a warehouse is converted to another use, such as residential housing. But many more have yet to be done.

Raoul Rañoa / @latimesgraphics

In the past, owners would sometimes consider plans to retrofit large, brittle concrete buildings but then back out when they saw the sticker price, said Saif Hussain, a Los Angeles-based structural engineer.

“Now, they have to do something,” said Hussain, who has helped write retrofit guidelines for both the city and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Even a single collapse would be catastrophic, not only for the building owner, but for the neighborhood and surrounding community. Lives would be lost and the building gone, but so would many of the engines that power the economy — rental income for the owner and places for people to work and live for the tenants.

In the meantime, L.A. is progressing on retrofitting a different type of building, wood apartment buildings with a flimsy first story. Out of about 13,500 apartments and condos, more than 350 retrofits have been completed and more than 2,000 were in the process of complying with the ordinance as of October, according to the mayor’s office.


Twitter: @ronlin

Three dogs die in Visalia   house fire

Sheyanne Romero Published 3:38 p.m. PT April 7, 2017

Although no one was hurt when a Visalia home caught fire, three dogs living inside didn’t survive.

Visalia Fire Department was called to a residential structure fire just after 11:30 a.m. Thursday at 2629 W. Country Ave. When they arrived, smoke and flames were coming from the single-story home. Firefighters forced their way inside.
While battling flames, crews searched for residents. Instead of finding people, they found three dogs suffering from smoke inhalation, Battalion Chief Danny Wristen said.

Firefighters tried to resuscitate the dogs but all three died. The owners of the dogs were not home at the time of the fire, Wristen said.

The fire caused an estimated $56,000 in damage to the home and another $28,000 to contents inside the home.

The cause of the fire appears to be accidental, Wristen said.

Firefighters install smoke detectors for local families

Smoke detectors save lives but far too often firefighters say they rush into homes that don’t have alarms installed.

On Saturday, the American Red Cross of the Central Valley, Visalia Fire Department and Southern California Edison Company will be installing free smoke alarms in Visalia homes.

“In our business, we see firsthand how important smoke detectors are and how they save lives,” Battalion Chief Darrin Hughes said. “The Visalia Fire Department is excited to be partnering with the American Red Cross for another Home Fire Campaign to be able to offer free smoke detectors to those who don’t have these life-saving devices in their homes, and make our residents feel safer at night.”

The Red Cross is able to provide free smoke alarm installations, critical preparedness education, and disaster relief to local families thanks to the support of the community, said Jessica Piffero, Red Cross spokeswoman.

“Last year the Red Cross and volunteers responded to help over 230 families that were displaced by home fire disasters and installed over 630 free smoke alarms,” Executive Director Barry Falke said. “It is extremely important that we as a community continue to educate each other on how to fortify the safety of our communities.”



Fire rips through Garden Grove home, residents escape unharmed

Thursday, January 25, 2018 04:23PM
GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (KABC) — Watch the video

A fire exploded inside a large home in Garden Grove early Thursday morning and cellphone video captured the frantic moments.

The homeowner, who was in the shower at the time, was forced to leave wearing only the shower curtain.

Friend Michael Fonesca took the cellphone video and arrived just as the flames broke out in the 9300 block of Royal Palm Boulevard.

“It got pitch black in there and running around in there trying to find him. Then I see Daniel and I’m like, ‘Hey! There’s a fire, you know?’” Fonesca said.

Daniel Battista and his fiance lived at the home. They heard the alarm and the screaming and grabbed what they could before fleeing the home.

“The heat was unbearable. I couldn’t breathe even through the thing. I couldn’t see. I realized there was nothing I could do, I’ve got to get out,” he said.

Battista said the flames were nearly to the ceiling. AIR7 HD flew over the scene, capturing the three-alarm blaze moving quickly through the 3,500-square foot home.

“It got real real to me when the windows started blowing out…real loud, real scary. It seemed like glass was flying,” he said.

Everyone got out safely and the homeowner was treated for minor burns. The other tenants and the fire department said hoarding conditions made the fire worse.

“The first arriving unit said there was a lot of obstructions moving inside the residence. So as far as the storage – it was excessive, both inside and outside,” said Capt. Brad Spell, with the Garden Grove Fire Department.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

50 People Displaced by Residential Fire in South L.A. Area

View image on Twitter


A firefighter assists a house fire which broke out in South Los Angeles.

A fire that broke out in the South Los Angeles area engulfed multiple homes and displaced several dozen people, authorities said Wednesday.

City firefighters arrived on the scene on the 1400 block of East 58th Place at 11:46 p.m. Tuesday to assist the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a tweet. The address is in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood.

A county Fire Department inspector said one single-family home was well involved when firefighters arrived, and then a second home and two motor homes caught fire.

Fifty people were displaced by the fire, the inspector said, and some electrical wires in the area were down and Southern California Edison was called to the scene.

Firefighters had extinguished the flames by 12:13 a.m. It’s still not clear what caused the fire.

Red Cross Los Angeles has set up a temporary shelter for those who were displaced.

By Jovana Lara

Tuesday, May 30, 2017 09:07PM


ABC 7: 19 people left homeless after house fire in Chatsworth

A fire erupted at a home in Chatsworth Tuesday morning, leaving more than a dozen people homeless.

A fire erupted at a home in Chatsworth Tuesday morning, leaving more than a dozen people homeless.

It was a frightening wake-up call for the tenants living in the single-family home. About eight fire engines rushed to the scene. Firefighters worked to knock out the fire that the home’s manager said started in the garage.

“Nobody got hurt. That was my main concern when I got here – Was everybody OK?” Cunie Houston said.

Most of the fire was contained to the garage and its contents were completely charred. But no one was injured in the fire, although a firefighter was hurt outside of the area and taken to a hospital.

The Red Cross responded to help the people who were living in the home.

“They’ve gone through a pretty tough thing and they were all pretty resilient. I was very happy to see that. Nobody was injured. Everybody got out safely, the animals got out safely,” Valerie Eads said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. It started one day after a deadline the tenants had been given to move out.

The property owner had evicted the manager, who was renting out rooms to residents, some of whom were transitioning out of homelessness. Now, those people have nowhere to stay.

“Where am I, a paraplegic woman, you know, 55 years old…where are we going to go?” tenant Robin Molina said.

There has been trouble at the home before. Last August, the manager’s brother was murdered. His body was found in the driveway of the property.

The Red Cross said they gave 19 people financial assistance to get housing and food for the next two nights.


Compton Herald: Earthquakes, San Andreas, and the inevitable

As read in the Compton Herlad at http://comptonherald.org/earthquakes-san-andreas-inevitable/

Learn measures that can be taken to minimize loss of life in a major earthquake

Seismologists say it’s not a matter of if, but when the San Andreas Fault will rupture; prudent thing is to be prepared to minimize risk

NEWS PERSPECTIVE — It is only a matter of time before people will be blaming the infamous San Andreas Fault for another catastrophic seismic event. The fault hasn’t lurched for 111 years.

Seismologists will readily tell you, it is beyond the time she awoke from her slumber. And it’s got them worried, because, San Andreas, the world’s longest fault line stretching 2,500 miles from Mexico to the San Francisco Bay area, is forecast upon rupture to wreak epic catastrophe in California.
Compton Herald | Map of San Andreas map

Earthquake faults and why they rupture

Earthquake faults are the space or dividing line between two converging tectonic plates. The San Andreas Fault is a continentaltransform fault that extends roughly 750 miles through California. It forms the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and theNorth American Plate, and its motion is right-lateral strike-slip(horizontal). The fault divides into three segments, each with different characteristics and a different degree of earthquake risk, the most significant being the Southern segment, which passes within about 35 miles of Los Angeles. The slip rate along the fault ranges from 0.79 to 1.38 inches per year.

The fault was first identified in 1895 by Professor Andrew Lawson of UC Berkeley, who discovered the northern zone. It is often described as having been named after San Andreas Lake, a small body of water that was formed in a valley between the two plates.

However, according to some of his reports from 1895 and 1908, Lawson actually named it after the surrounding San Andreas Valley. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the last year of considerable movement along the fault line, Lawson concluded that the fault extended all the way into Southern California. It is divided into three zones — the Northern, Central, and Southern.

The northern segment of the fault runs from Hollister, through theSanta Cruz Mountains, the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, then up the San Francisco Peninsula.

The central segment of the San Andreas Fault runs in a northwestern direction from Parkfield to Hollister.

The southern segment (also known as the Mojave segment) begins near Bombay Beach, Calif. Box Canyon, near the Salton Sea, contains upturned strata associated with that section of the fault. The fault then runs along the southern base of the San Bernardino Mountains, crosses through the Cajon Pass and continues northwest along the northern base of the San Gabriel Mountains. These mountains are a result of movement along the San Andreas Fault and are commonly called the Transverse Range.

In Palmdale, a portion of the fault is easily examined at a road cut for the Antelope Valley Freeway. The fault continues northwest alongside the Elizabeth Lake Road to the town of Elizabeth Lake. As it passes the towns of Gorman, Tejon Pass, and Frazier Park, the fault begins to bend northward, forming the “Big Bend.” Thisrestraining bend is thought to be where the fault locks up inSouthern California, with an earthquake-recurrence interval of roughly 140–160 years. Northwest of Frazier Park, the fault runs through the Carrizo Plain, a long, treeless plain where much of the fault is plainly visible. The Elkhorn Scarp defines the fault trace along much of its length within the plain.

The southern segment, which stretches from Parkfield in Monterey County all the way to the Salton Sea, is capable of an 8.1-magnitude earthquake. At its closest, this fault passes about 35 miles to the northeast of Los Angeles. Such a large earthquake on this southern segment would most likely kill and injure thousands of people in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, and surrounding areas, and cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.

A study published in 2006 in the journal Nature found that the San Andreas Fault has reached a sufficient stress level for an earthquake of magnitude greater than 8.0 on the moment magnitude scale to occur. According to this study, a massive earthquake on that southern section of the San Andreas fault would result in major damage to the Palm Springs–Indiometropolitan area and other cities in San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial counties in California, and Mexicali Municipality inBaja California. It would be strongly felt throughout much ofSouthern California, including densely populated areas of L.A. County, Ventura County, Orange County, San Diego County,Ensenada Municipality, and Tijuana Municipality, Baja California; San Luis Rio Colorado in Sonora and Yuma, Ariz.

Older buildings would be especially prone to damage or collapse, as would buildings built on unconsolidated gravel or in coastal areas where water tables are high (and thus subject to soil liquefaction). The study concluded the following:

“The information available suggests that the fault is ready for the next big earthquake but exactly when the triggering will happen and when the earthquake will occur we cannot tell […] It could be tomorrow or it could be 10 years or more from now.

Nevertheless, in the 10 years since that publication, there has not been a substantial quake in the Los Angeles area, and two major reports issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have made variable predictions as to the risk of future seismic events. The ability to predict major earthquakes with sufficient precision to warrant increased precautions has remained elusive.”
Minimizing quake damage, saving lives

While predicting major seismic events is still beyond the range of seismology, measures can be taken to minimize loss of life in a major earthquake. The American Red Cross encourages the following:

  • Find safe places in every room, such as under a desk or against an inside wall. During an earthquake, these are places to take cover from falling objects.
  • Practice Drop, Cover and Hold On! at least twice a year. Drop under a nearby table or desk and hold on to it. Cover your head with your free arm. If you are not near a table or desk, sit against an interior wall away from anything that might break or fall on you and Drop, Cover and Hold On! Don’t forget, teach your children to Drop, Cover and Hold On!
  • Designate an out of town contact for your family. Phone lines are apt to go down during a quake. When they come back up, it will be easier to call out of town or even out of state than locally. During an emergency, each person in your family should contact that person. The out of town contact will be able to tell each of you where the other is when you may not able to call each other.
  • Experts are available and very willing to help you find additional ways to protect your home, such as bolting your house to its foundation or training to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Inform others, like babysitters or caregivers, of your emergency plan.
  • Secure your furniture. Unsecured furniture may fall on you during an earthquake.
  • Prepare a Disaster Supplies Kit for your home, work, and car.
  • Know what to do when the shaking begins.

Persons in bed should hold on and remain there, protecting the head with a pillow. If outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground. If in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place. Remain in the car until the shaking stops.
What to do after the shaking stops

Check for injuries. Protect from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves. Give aid according to the level of training.
Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards. Turn off the gas. (Remember, only a professional should turn it back on.)
Listen to the radio for instructions. Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one, DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON!
Inspect your home for damage. Get everyone out, if your home is unsafe.
Expect phone systems to be overloaded during an emergency. Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies.
Content from Wikipedia contributed to this post

LA On Scene for Hurricane Harvey

Prepare SoCal: Disaster Preparedness in Los Angeles and Southern California

ABC7, Kidde and The Home Depot have joined the American Red Cross Prepare SoCal campaign. Prepare SoCal is a public awareness campaign to create more resilient communities that are better equipped to help each other prevent, prepare for and respond to life-threatening disasters. Being prepared is the key to surviving a disaster, and Prepare SoCal wants to help viewers be prepared.

Seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones outlined the need for earthquake preparedness and preparation for other natural disasters on this edition of Eyewitness Newsmakers.

Kidde & The Home Depot

A safer world, one community at a time.

Kidde is dedicated to working with non-profit partners to spread safety awareness and education across the globe.

Even as an industry leader, making the world a safer place is not something we can do alone. That’s why we work closely with non-profit organizations. industry professionals and experts. Together, we’re organizing and implementing programs and events that help educate, give back, and supply fire and CO safety products to communities in need.

Kidde’s mission is to protect people and property from fire and its related hazards. An important part of this mission is working closely with industry professionals and experts to promote safety awareness and to help save lives.

One of their partners is the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign. Each year, the Red Cross responds to nearly 66,000 disasters, the vast majority of which are home fires. So they set a goal to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries in the US by 25% by 2020.

On average:

7 people die every day from a home fire

36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires every day

Over $7 billion in property damage occurs every year

To learn more about this program, and Kidde’s involvement, go to: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/prevent-home-fire

And for more information on Kidde and the Home Depot, go to: http://www.homedepot.com/c/Kidde 

Prepare SoCal Information

We’re in this together, Southern California, so:

organizing your preparedness kit

Get a Kit

Red Cross Make A Plan

Make a Plan

Red Cross Be Informed

Be Informed

Get a Kit: At minimum, the American Red Cross recommends that you have the following items in your emergency preparedness kit:

  • Water: One gallon per person, per day. A three-day supply is recommended for evacuation. A two-week supply is recommended if you stay in your home. Also, don’t forget to provide for your pets.
  • Non-perishable food: Easy to open and prepare food items are preferable. A three-day supply is recommended for evacuation. A two-week supply is recommended if you stay in your home. And, don’t forget to provide for your pets.
  • First aid kit
  • Medications

For a complete list of emergency supplies, visit www.PrepareSoCal.org. To purchase an official Red Cross emergency preparedness kit, visit the RedCrossStore.org.

Make a Plan: Families can and do cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Create a family disaster plan including an evacuation plan and a communication plan. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.

  • Meet with your family and discuss the types of disasters that are most likely to happen. Explain the dangers of fire, severe weather, and earthquakes to children and explain what to do in each case. Plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team.
  • Pick two places to meet:
  1. Right outside your home, in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire.
  2. Outside your neighborhood, in case you can’t return home. Everyone must know the address and phone number.
  • Ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Other family members should call this person and tell them where they are. Everyone must know your contact’s phone number.
  • Families should develop different methods for communicating during emergency situations, and share their plans, beforehand, with all those who would be worried about their welfare.

Be Informed: Visit PrepareSoCal.org, a website created by the American Red Cross that has step-by-step guides on how to get ready for disasters, including earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, and mudslides, as well as links to disaster preparedness classes in your area to learn more.

  • Identify how local authorities will notify you during a disaster and how you will get information, whether through local radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio stations or channels. Know the difference between different weather alerts, such as watches and warnings and what actions to take in each.
  • When a major disaster occurs, your community can change in an instant. Loved ones may be hurt and emergency response is likely to be delayed. Make sure that at least one member of your household is trained in first aid and CPR, and knows how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). This training is useful in many emergency situations. To register for an American Red Cross course, click here.
  • Share what you have learned with your family, household and neighbors and encourage them to be informed.

Millions across the state participated in the ninth annual Great California ShakeOut for earthquake preparedness.

Be sure to check out the following websites, which are included to enhance your ability to get better prepared.

CBSLA Red Cross Shelter Resident​

Red Cross Shelter aids elderly couple evacuated from home during La Tuna Fire