On Tuesday, my team and I visited the Wrightwood community to get an update on recovery efforts following the historic blizzard. It was wonderful to speak to Wrightwood Community Services District members, business owners and County leadership first hand to learn more about the challenges experienced during the past several weeks.
Station 14 Provided Quick Action Thanks to Snow Cat, Hand Crews
Our first stop was at Wrightwood's Station 14, where we met with San Bernardino County Fire Department's Assistant Chief Kelly Anderson (Division 5, North Desert Region). Chief Anderson said that the station's snowcat was a tremendous resource during the first days following the storm.
"Without our snow cat, we wouldn’t have had the ability to access some of the homes," she said. "We had a few requests from elderly and handicapped residents that our hand crews did respond to and clear their driveways. We also responded to multiple calls for service, such as food and medication delivery.”
Before the storm, Station 14 staffed an extra engine company in Wrightwood to handle responses. “We also wanted additional staffing because of the conditions and roads. We knew there would be delays from the snow, so wanted to have more units responding,” said Anderson.
To further assist the Wrightwood community, County Fire brought in a 7-person hand crew concentrated on clearing fire hydrants and infrastructure. "We have a pretty detailed mapping system that has every hydrant marked, so even under 6 feet of snow we know exactly where they are," she said.
Chief Anderson said that Wrightwood experienced no problems with electrical wires, power outages or gas leaks during or after the storms.
She added that Southern California Gas Company does have a representative in the community to field concerns regarding gas meters, which should be cleared of snow with a broom or brush. If residents smell natural gas odor or hear the hissing sound of gas escaping, immediately report any visual meter or pipe damage to SoCalGas at 1-800-427-2200.
"All requests made by the community of Wrightwood have been addressed and we currently have nothing pending,” said Chief Anderson.
Lone Pine Canyon Will Remain Open to Residents Only (with ID)
With the San Bernardino National Forest closed to the public until March 16, Wrightwood residents are concerned about the impact of snow players on Angeles National Forest's state and residential roads — especially since routes N4 and Highway 2 are closed at Big Pines.
Snowplay is illegal in Wrightwood, and along State Route 2. The only legal snowplay areas are in the Angeles National Forest, past Mountain High West Resort, and at the Yeti Snowpark at East Resort.
“Snowplay is a problem every year,” said Chief Anderson. “Right now, it’s an even bigger issue because there’s no shoulder, and no place for them to park. If they do park, they are blocking the roads. There is nowhere for them to pull over for emergency vehicles.”
In order to assist the community with possible delays in and out of town, the County is keeping Lone Pine Canyon open for residents only with ID. The road will be staffed by an officer at the junction of Highway 138 and Lone Pine Canyon through the weekend. Additionally, our San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department will be staffing extra deputies in Wrightwood over the weekend.
To assist with calls and emergencies, LA County Fire is keeping an engine at Station 14. "They normally have to respond from Pearblossom, so on busy weekends this is a great help," said Chief Anderson.
Public Works Making Continued Progress Clearing Roads
San Bernardino County Department of Public Works Superintendent Tyson Fristrom joined our staff on Tuesday's tour to show the great progress being made on Wrightwood's roads.
He said that Public Works prepared ahead for the storm by bringing resources from the Barstow and Apple Valley yards to assist in Wrightwood. With 100 percent of the roads passable, the department is now working on widening the roads. They also removed the huge berm from Park Drive over the past few days, allowing better access to local businesses.
Public Works is also coordinating with Snowline Joint Unified School District to review the roads along school routes and determine if any additional work is needed. The department is hoping Caltrans can address concerns regarding the school bus stops along SR-2.
Groceries and Supplies Restocked at Jensen's, Mountain Hardware
Following our stop at Wrightwood Station 14, our team was pleased to meet with two local businesses that have been invaluable to the community: Mountain Hardware and Jensen's Finest Foods.
Both Mountain Hardware owner Mike Troeger and Jensen's manager Rick Cronk said that getting supplies was difficult during the first few days of the storm since delivery trucks were unable to reach the village.
Thankfully, both stores were able to get additional supplies last week. Jensen's was able to restock in-demand items such as bottled water, bread, frozen food and firewood. Mountain Hardware received 20 pallets of merchandise on Friday, allowing them to restock ice melt, snow shovels, gas cans and other essential items.
Community Point of Distribution Offering Supplies, Food to Residents
To further assist Wrightwood residents, a Community Point of Distribution is now operating at the Wrightwood Community Center, located at 1275 Hwy 2. Here, residents can find items including diapers, baby formula, dog food, canned goods and more.
Wrightwood's CERT and the CSD have been working with County staff to keep the operation running smoothly.
"The resources will continue to come in and the operation is running really well," said Daniel Munoz, Director of San Bernardino County's Office of Emergency Services (OES). "There’s a lot of great teamwork and coordination going on."
Snow Removal Reimbursement
San Bernardino County is now offering up to $500 in reimbursement to residents and business owners to cover snow removal costs on private driveways, walkways, and roads. Snow removal costs incurred between February 22-May 1, 2023 are eligible, and claims for reimbursement must be submitted by May 10, 2023.
To take advantage of this new benefit, property owners will need to hire and pay a private vendor for snow removal services. Following completion of the work, applicants will upload an invoice or receipt, along with before and after photos, to the Snow Removal Reimbursement Program website. Reimbursement claims will be paid out via check within 30 days of receipt. Residents may submit multiple invoices up to $500, but the invoices must be uploaded all at once in a single claim.
The program can be accessed at the San Bernardino County Snow Information website located here.
For other snow guidance from County Public Works, visit the Snow Removal Frequently Asked Questions site.
Additional Resources Available For the Wrightwood Community
- The County is operating a special hotline for mountain residents at 909-387-3911 to answer questions and provide resources.
- The County has opened a toll-free hotline for calls related to property damage, building permits and related questions at 800-722-4542.
- Report illegal highway parking to Victorville CHP - SB County (760-241-1186) or ?Antelope Valley CHP - LA County (661-948-8541).
- Report Illegal Residential Parking at Trespassing to Victor Valley Sheriff Dispatch - SB County (760-956-5001)? or Palmdale Sheriff's Station - LA County (661-272-2400).
- Report illegal food/retail vending to SB County Code Enforcement (909-884-4056)? or LA County Illegal Food Vending (626-430-5500).
- Report illegal activities in the forest to Angeles National Forest Service Dispatch (661-723-3620)? or San Bernardino Forest Service Dispatch (909-383-5651).