Governor Schwarzenegger Tours El Toro High School Evacuation Center

GOVERNOR: Hello, everybody, and good afternoon. It's wonderful to be here today with all of you. And I have, since the fires have started, I have been traveling up and down the state and visiting the various different places that have been struck by the fire, and visited places where people are staying overnight. There are so many people that have been evacuated; it's really unbelievable when you think about that more than a million people have been evacuated from their homes. And this is one of the centers where people come to, and I just wanted to see firsthand how people are treated, if they need anything, if they need medical care, or more food, or cots, or blankets, pillows, baby food, or whatever it is that people need when they stay overnight when they're away from home. I think that everyone is in a good spirit in there, which I really appreciate. And everyone knows that eventually, in the next few days, we will solve all those problems. And we all want to make sure that also the people get an update on what happens to their homes and to their neighborhood, and what happens with the fires and so on, so they have a progress report. But anyway, I want to thank also my friends that are here today with me. I want to thank Senator Ackerman who is here with us -- thank you very much, Senator, for being here and caring. Assemblyman Spitzer is also with us here, right there with the yellow jacket on. And then we have, of course, Supervisor Bates here with us, and then Mayor Dixon of Lake Forest, then CAL FIRE Chief Ruben Grijalva, who is traveling around, up and down the state. If you have any complaints about the fires, he's the man to talk to. Then we have also Sheriff Corona here. Where is Sheriff Corona? Thank you so much. Someone that is very concerned about the fires and about the people that have to relocate, to make sure to provide public safety also. We have Supervisor Campbell also with us, Assemblyman DeVore and Secretary Bradshaw is also with us, he came down from Sacramento. So thank you very much. I just want to tell you, and I've just said this in my press conference earlier, that I'm so impressed with the firefighters, with the great work that they are doing all over the state of California. I mean, it's really extraordinary. (Applause) I can tell you, we can be proud of them. We have, without any doubt, the best trained and the best experienced, and the most courageous firefighters in the world. I have seen them in action, and it is really extraordinary, so let's give them a big hand again. (Applause) But what is equally as important is law enforcement, and so we want to also give a big round of applause to the people from law enforcement for coordinating all of those movements and everything, and provide public safety. (Applause) We also want to thank your political, our public servants, political leaders, and people that really care about that you are all taken care of really well. And I just wanted to also make an announcement quickly here, because I talked to our Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner, who is a terrific leader, talking about leadership, and he has declared a Declaration of Insurance Emergency. And the reason for that is because Commissioner Poizner wants to make sure that it allows out-of-state insurance adjusters to come into California and process claims. No. 2, it will help expedite insurance claims and cut through the red tape, which is very important to people and businesses, to get back on their feet as quickly as possible. And also, it will also help people get paid, or reimbursed, for their daily out-of-pocket expenses, I think which is also very important. This is for people while they are in the shelters, they will get reimbursed for their out-of-pocket expenses. So I just wanted to make that quick announcement here. I'm very happy that the locals, the state, and the federal government are working so well together on this disaster. It is a huge, huge disaster. We have just heard this morning there are over 8,000 firefighters that are working right now on those fires, and they're working around the clock, and doing a great job. And then we have already so much land that has burned, over 400,000 acres of land that has burned so far, and 1,500 homes have been destroyed, and other structures that have been destroyed. So we are really talking about a major disaster here. And of course there were three things that were against us. One is the dry weather, the hot weather, and the winds. Because when you have winds like that, and when you have those three conditions come together you know you have the perfect storm for a fire. And we have many times not been able to let aircraft take off and combat those fires, but now I think the weather condition is getting a little bit better. But we just want you to know that we're all working together. We have the President of the United States coming out here tomorrow, and he has helped us. We asked him for an emergency declaration, and he granted us that. Then we asked him for a disaster declaration; he granted us that, which is going to be helpful for all of us, for the state and especially for the people so they can get back on their feet. Because there are so many people whose homes have been destroyed, and these are all people that were part of the American Dream, owning their own home, and saving money their whole lives in order to have their own home, and then all of a sudden that home is gone within an hour. And that is really a devastating blow, so my heart goes out to all of these people. And so this is why I want to tell everyone that has been affected by that, that we want to make sure, for you to understand that you're not alone. You're not alone. We are going to help you, we're going to be with you all the way. There will be follow through. It's as simple as that; there will be follow through. So thank you very much. And now I would like to bring out my very good friend Senator Dick Ackerman to say a few words. (Applause) SENATOR ACKERMAN: Thank you, Governor. This Senate District is my senate District, where unfortunately the fires are going on right now. And I also want to commend all the firefighters around the state, but particularly the ones in Orange County. CROWD: We can't hear you. GOVERNOR: Usually his wife that gets to talk. SENATOR ACKERMAN: I know, I know. How's that? That's not working either. How's that? All right, we fixed it. Mechanical marvels here. My name is Dick Ackerman, I'm the Senator from the 33rd District, which unfortunately is the district that has the fires in it right now. I also want to commend all of the statewide firefighters and sheriffs and police for the great work that they do. But we should all be particularly proud of the people we have here in Orange County. I think we have one of the best firefighter -- give them applause. (Applause) We have one of the best trained, the best supplied, the best everything of all the fire departments in the state, and I think that is shown by the quick response we had to the fire here, which could have been very devastating if they had not acted quickly. I live about two miles from the fire. On Sunday night I came back to my house, we saw the smoke and we saw all this coming through, and we were watching the news. And I called the Fire and they said you may be evacuated, you may not. But my wife and I loaded up both of our cars with all the pictures, all the things that you want to take with you when you have to go. And fortunately, because of the great work of our local firefighters, we did not need to do that, and we stayed in our home. But I think the main thing to look at is the response that we've had statewide, and I'll give the Governor great kudos for getting the team together and getting a statewide response. When you turn on your TV anytime starting Sunday on, you see another fire popping out every day, and I think this morning the latest count was 18. And no matter how many DC-10s you have, how many firefighters, how many policemen you have out there, you cannot control 18 fires of the magnitude we have in California. Having said that, they're doing a pretty good job. So I do want to commend them all, and when you get through with all of this, I also want to commend Lake Forest. They did a very good job in setting up almost overnight. (Applause) This shelter -- and you may not know, it was set up mainly for Orange County folks, but because of the great work of the Fire Department, probably about 20 percent of the folks in there are from Orange County, the rest are from San Diego County. We're probably going to do a lot more help in San Diego, because I think the situation down there is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Anyway, I thank everybody involved, and I'd now like to introduce Assemblyman Todd Spitzer. (Applause) ASSEMBLYMAN SPITZER: I want to thank you all for coming out, and just tell you how proud I am to have represented you both in the State Legislature and on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. We are in Senator Dick Ackerman's district, and as we speak, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore's district. The fire is burning out of control right now, as we know, in Silverado Modjeska, potentially jeopardizing the Cleveland National Forest. This picture, if you saw it in the LA Times, these are 12 firefighters who put their lives on the line in their heat suits, and the fire, this was the exact moment when the fire crossed from the west side of Silverado Canyon, Santiago Canyon Road, to the east side of Santiago Canyon Road. And those of you who live in the community, you know what that meant. When it crossed, we weren't going to be able to stop it in Silverado Modjeska or (Inaudible) Canyon. And hopefully we'll save Cook's Corner, and hopefully we'll save everything we can. And I have to tell you, when I chaired the Fire Authority Board as a supervisor -- this is still my outfit from then -- I have to tell you that we're used to fires in this area, and you all know it. We're used to fires. But we have never, ever seen anything like this, or even close to this, before. And so I have to tell you, as Senator Ackerman indicated, you have reached out your hospitality, like we do in Orange County. I mean, when I was in Foothill Ranch on Tuesday, or Monday, we -- how many of you from Foothill Ranch? Lake Forest, right? You're all from Lake Forest? What about the Canyons? How many of you are from the Canyons? You're from Modjeska, so right now you probably don’t even know whether your home is even there. You have not been allowed to be back in your canyon. And I just want to give you an update on that issue. Chief Prather, who was not able to be here -- he was at another event earlier and he's out patrolling his troops -- they are now working to make sure that you get escorted some time today back into your communities, okay? So that you can assess the damage. But for those of you who are sleeping in your beds tonight, and are going to be with your loved ones -- because at Foothill Ranch, I wasn't sure on Monday if you were going to be able to get back in your homes. I've never seen anything like that in my life. So I just want you to know I'll continue -- I've been on this fire line personally since Sunday night. I will be there to represent my constituents, because that's what's important. I'll be there to do everything I can to communicate with the Governor's staff and the Governor. I want to say something about the Governor being here today. This Governor has been all over the state; Lake Arrowhead, Malibu, also San Diego County. He'll probably have to go back to San Diego County. He was in Lake Arrowhead. This is a governor who cares deeply about you and the people that are inside, from San Diego, and the people that need these resources. You heard what he said; his top priority is making sure we stop the fire, but he's got the vision to indicate that it's not just about when the fire ends, it's about how we move forward in the State of California. And you're looking at all these elected officials and representatives, and the Red Cross -- the one organization we haven't recognized right here is the Red Cross. And I think we've got -- (Applause) Every time there's a disaster -- every time there's a disaster, Stanley Purdue and his group, they come out for us. So continue to support the Red Cross, make your contributions. And if you need anything, anything, you make sure you go on Assemblyman DeVore or my website, Pat Bate's website, Senator Ackerman, the Governor. You can get to the Governor's staff, to Chief Grijalva -- you can get to any of these individuals through us. We're your representatives, and you need to make sure you use us to make sure we're representing you appropriately. So thank you, and God bless all of you. (Applause) At this time I'd like to introduce your Assemblyman, as you're standing here, my good friend Chuck DeVore. (Applause) ASSEMBLYMAN DeVORE: Well, as the ash falls upon us here in Lake Forest, the third largest city in my Assembly District, I wish I could welcome you under happier circumstances. But I want to praise the people of the surrounding area for their generosity in opening up their facilities and helping those people who have been displaced. I also want to recognize some folks who have been helping out here, after the Governor activated them. Just a few months ago I retired after 24 years in the Army National Guard, and I know that we have Army and Air National Guardsmen out there helping out doing water dropping from their helicopters, helping out the people down in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. And I just want to thank those who, in many cases, just a few months ago were fighting for us in Iraq or Afghanistan, who have now been called up to help those in the State of California. (Applause) One last thing I'd like to mention from my vantage point as Vice-Chairman on the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation. I will be introducing legislation along with Assemblyman Todd Spitzer that would provide property tax relief for those individuals whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by the recent fires. With this will allow us to do is it will allow the state to reimburse the counties for not charging people property tax when they've lost their homes. (Applause) At this point I would like to then introduce Supervisor Pat Bates from the Fifth Supervisorial District. She represents the area in Orange County that has been most impacted by the recent fires. (Applause) SUPERVISOR BATES: Thank you, Assemblyman DeVore. And congratulations to all of you for being out here today and supporting those who have been displaced, giving of your time and your resources to help. I'd like to give you a little historical perspective on what we were, many years ago in the early '90s. We were unincorporated, and we banded together, created a number of cities, and had the foresight, those leaders then, to come together and create the Fire Authority. And it has been an awesome, awesome experience for me to see these guys at work. I was on the front lines in Foothill Ranch, flames just 20 feet in front of me, and they were managing fires. And to learn the science of fire managing this late in my career -- I thought we didn't know what we were doing then. You were all part of that. We did the right thing. So thank you to all of you. Another note; I served in our State Assembly when Governor Schwarzenegger was first elected. He came on board and from the minute he arrived in Sacramento we all knew he was hands-on. He has a caring about the job he does, responsibility to all of you who have elected him, and he's a family man, so he understands those very, very heart wrenching situations that families face in a tragedy, a disaster like this. So having him here -- I commend him for attending. But we knew he would be here for us. And if we can do anything for him, it's as southern California community to unite behind him, have our voices heard in Washington so that the promises that have been made will be kept for us, and we will get early response, consistent response, to address the terrible tragedies that many of our families and communities are facing. So with that it's my pleasure now to introduce the Sheriff, Sheriff Mike Corona. He, with our Fire Authority have done the most awesome job of keeping most of our residents and most of our homes safe from harm's way. Sheriff Corona. (Applause) SHERIFF CORONA: Well, you've been here a long time, so I'll try to keep this short. First of all, I want to thank Governor Schwarzenegger. The man you see behind you is a proactive governor. He has, his first priority is public safety, and whether that's law enforcement or fire service, I guarantee you that he invests his dollars wisely. This is not just a show; this is a man that you're going to be watching around the state of California, not going from fire to fire, but working with everybody who has been impacted by this disaster, and making sure the recovery takes place. He's the one that pushed the President to get out here. I also want to make sure that I compliment Allan Mucerino, who is the Principal for this particular high school. He opened up El Toro High for all of you. Give him a round of applause. (Applause) And of course the men and women of the Orange County Sheriff's Department and all the volunteers that we have associated with our department -- they stood tall. In this county you're blessed. Fire service and law enforcement trains together. Chip Prather and I have a great friendship, but a strong working relationship. We co-locate our command posts on an ongoing basis, depending on what's going on, throughout our community. On September the 11th, 2001, he was with me from 6:47 in the morning for the next three days. He was the first one to come up to the Emergency Operations Center Sunday morning when we were overtaken by flames at the command post that we were running up in Loma Ridge. Chip was the first person to come up and see me. The men and women of Fire Service, the Orange County Fire Authority and firefighters throughout Orange County and law enforcement throughout Orange County work extremely well together. We are fortunate that we have such a great team, and as a result of that, we have no loss of life, and I think that's a testament to their great work. (Applause) I'm honored to be able to introduce Mayor Richard Dixon. Mayor Dixon is the mayor of Lake Forest. This city was almost overtaken by fire. Again, by the grace of God and some great work of a lot of people, we stand here today with no loss of life and no loss of property. Mayor Dixon. (Applause) MAYOR DIXON: Thank you, Sheriff. On behalf of the City of Lake Forest, and specifically those people that live in Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills, I want to tell you how much we appreciate you, Governor, for being here. We appreciate your timeliness in making sure that we had the resources -- not we, of course, but the Sheriff and the Fire Department, and the various fire departments that were on the fire line -- that they had the timely resources they needed to make sure that no homes or lives were lost in Portola Hills or Foothill Ranch. Thank you very, sir. Appreciate it. (Applause) I would also like to take the opportunity to make sure that I thank the men and women of the Sheriff's Department and the Highway Patrol that were out there helping. And of course the men and women, the brave men and women of the Orange County Fire Authority and the other fire departments that were there. I personally was on the fire line on Monday, and witnessed the Brea Fire Department fighting out fires from the backs of homes in Portola Hills, and also in the afternoon over Portola Elementary School, making sure that that school was not overrun by flames. And I believe that was the Yerba Linda Fire Department. I know there were others here, but I want to call those out and thank them personally, and we'll make sure that everybody else gets thanked that were out here. We really, really do appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause) Now very quickly, by the numbers -- as you know, we're standing here at El Toro High School. We have about 270 evacuees in there, about 80 percent are from the Fallbrook area. We're glad they're here. We're sorry they're here under these circumstances, but we're glad that we're able to provide them with help. For those of you that live in Modjeska Canyon, as Assemblyman Spitzer said, I have an update on that. As soon as this conference is over, within the hour, Lieutenant Barns of our Police Services Department is going to be helping to organize to allow you folks to get back to your homes. You will not be allowed to stay at your homes, but you will be allowed to get back into the canyon and assess any potential damage that might be there. Once again, my heart goes out to those of you who may have lost homes both there and all over southern California. But once again, we are very, very grateful here in Lake Forest, especially Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills, that the homes were saved and we had no loss of life. Thank you to the Governor and all the men and women of the police and fire services. (Applause) GOVERNOR: Thank you very much. And if you have any questions now, please feel free to ask. We have experts here on firefighting, Ruben -- or any other questions you may have. Q: Governor, are you satisfied with response? (Inaudible) and Senator Boxer and the Lieutenant Governor seem to imply that if it wasn't for the deployment of National Guard troops overseas the response would have been better. GOVERNOR: Well, first of all, let me just say that whenever you have a disaster like that I think it's a smart thing to do, after it's over, to assess and see where we could have done better. So we always do that. That is our No. 1 rule that we have to have. Also, we have to assess always are we doing enough for prevention? Because remember that there are a lot of changes that have taken place over the years, and clearing around the house and getting rid of the branches and the leaves and all this, or cutting down the trees so that you don't have the fire coming that quickly to the house. There is also what we use as building materials. We have just passed laws just recently that will improve on the way we build homes so they can sustain much more punishment in the future. So all of those kind of things, we always have to look at. But I don’t think it is right to say that if our National Guards wouldn't be overseas that it would be a quicker response, because when I asked General Wade to pull off our forces from our borders, he immediately pulled off 800 men from the borders, exactly the way I asked him to do it. And now we have 1,500 National Guards all over the state of California, helping us with moving people around, and also with crowd control and law enforcement, and all those kind of activities. And also with firefighting. So I don't think that we are short on personnel there at all. I think that we are always short on resources. I think if you ask the Red Cross they will tell you they're short on resources. If you ask the firefighters, they are short on resources. Because this disaster has hit at one time. In one day, all those fires started. So you had -- you know, all of a sudden you needed to deploy more than 8,000, almost 9,000 firefighters. And the all of those trucks were used, and all of the resources were used. The airplanes -- we have 90 aircraft here in California now ready to be used. Some of them couldn't be used because of the wind conditions. So now can we update those aircraft, and have the newer aircraft? Yes. We are looking at all of those things. Yes, please. Q: (Inaudible) that there was not enough air support at the beginning (Inaudible) GOVERNOR: Well, I think the Chief made clear today that that was not the case. He felt that in general we should update our aircraft. But I think we have Ruben here that can answer that specifically. Please. MR. GRIJALVA: Just so you know, CAL FIRE has 57 aircraft in our fleet statewide. They're deployed so they can respond anywhere in the state in 20 minutes or less. When we saw that this wind event was predicted for Sunday through Tuesday we moved 8 of our 9 helicopters to southern California. We moved 17 of our 23 air tankers to southern California. And when we operate -- just so you know how a fire operates -- when a fire breaks out it usually involves local government first, then involves state, and in some cases it moves into federal lands. We work together hand-in-hand, and we put together a cooperative group that makes decisions on how resources are deployed. And Orange County is involved in that, all the counties that are involved in fires -- and there are seven counties involved in fires right now -- participate with the state and the federal government in making decisions on where to best deploy resources. When we flew Orange County early on -- anywhere in the state, the first two days we had winds going 40 to 60 miles an hour, continually, with gusts to 85 to 100 miles an hour in some places. I flew into southern California on Monday on a small aircraft in 35 mile an hour winds, and you know, I was not sure I was going to make it. So it was not safe for those aircraft to be flying on Sunday on Monday. We flew an ATG, a Scout aircraft over Orange County, and the feedback from them was that it wasn’t safe to fly at that time. We gave the resources as soon as we can to wherever they were needed. Every aircraft that was in southern California, if it could fly safely, was flying and dropping retardant and water. We brought in an additional -- thanks to the Governor's executive order, as you know -- a DC-10. In this event we brought in two DC-7s. We have a large water drop tanker on scene today that drops 7,000 gallons of water with each drop. So he directed me, and we brought in every possible resource that we could to the state, including 9 federal aircraft also. So there's a lot of aircraft in the state, there's a lot of resources in the state. But yes, we were hampered early on in the first couple of days with wind conditions, smoke conditions, visibility. GOVERNOR: Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause)