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Kern County Fire Chief On Earthquake Response


Last night, Southern California was shaken by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. It's the second quake to hit the region since Thursday. Residents in Kern County have been reeling from the effect of both quakes. Fire Chief Anthony Romero is on the line to give us the latest. Welcome.

ANTHONY ROMERO: Hi. Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So what kind of damage are you seeing? You're right there in the middle of it.

ROMERO: Currently, right now, we haven't really been able to see a lot of damage. Pretty much a lot of infrastructure, mobile homes have been kind of damaged in certain ways. We do have a strike team of USAR engines and also Type 1 engines here, which - we're also doing what they call a triage. So we're going to be triaging a lot of the areas to where, if we find some infrastructures that are harmful to the citizens, we're going to be reporting in trying to see if there is anybody trapped or not trapped. Currently, we have no reports of any fatalities. We did have some minor injuries. But the majority of it has been more of gas leaks, more gas mains, your gas meters in your homes.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know, how much of this damage from last night has been piled up from the the Fourth of July, Thursday 6.4 quake?

ROMERO: Well, we've had multiple structures in different times. So we've had some houses that have burned down. In fact, this morning, we just got a call - the guys just got a call for another structure fire. So we have multiple engines going to that call currently as we speak. So it's an ongoing deal to where either it's a gas main or something that's just happening to where it's sparking off. So it's a continuous deal 24 hours.

MONTAGNE: So also, rockslides as a result of last night's quake - that's what we've been hearing - closing some access to towns there, like the town of Trona and Kern River Canyon.

ROMERO: So Trona, what we had, is where some of the roads have been cracked or separated. Off of 178 going towards Lake Isabella, we did have some rockslides that we did close down the areas - CHP did close down the area so that way they can keep people from going in because we don't know about the stability of the mountains. And there have been significant amount of large rocks that have hit the 178 roads.

MONTAGNE: No deaths, thankfully, so far have been reported. But we have heard that people were sleeping outside last night after the quake hit. What was that like?

ROMERO: So, currently, we did - it was kind of scary. We did have some power outages out here. And people were sleeping outside. We do have some areas from where Red Cross has been able to accept individuals. So we do have open facilities at Kerr McGee Center and Burroughs High School. So people are there. They're scared. They're a little bit nervous. But we're - we do have a continuous amount of people here to protect them, to protect the city and protect the town. We're here to support the city of Ridgecrest. And we're going to continue supporting them until this incident stops.

MONTAGNE: Fire Chief Anthony Romero of Kern County, where the quake hit hardest - it's about 100 miles north of Los Angeles - thank you for talking with us.

ROMERO: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.