Fresno fire crews help survey damage after second big earthquake hits Ridgecrest

The City of Fresno’s Regional Task Force 5 is among the crews in Ridgecrest to help examine the damage and provide assistance following Friday’s powerful earthquake, according to Fresno Fire Department spokesman Robert Castillo.

Local crews are among several state departments that were deployed to the Mojave Desert Friday night after the 7.1 temblor hit around 8:20 p.m. — the strongest earthquake to strike Southern California in 20 years.

Fire crews on Saturday were doing a secondary assessment of damage, which included a “more thorough” look into damage and the integrity of structures. An immediate check was done by local crews during the night hours.

The Fresno crews are assigned to the northwest part of Ridgecrest and the small town of Inyokern, west of Ridgecrest. That region, east of Bakersfield over the Seqouia National Forest, has become the hardest hit place for the latest earthquakes.

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Ridgecrest holds a population of 29,000 and nearby Trona, which has also faced damage, has a population of 1,800, according to Mark Ghilarducci, director of the state Office of Emergency Services.

Fires were sparked and power outages became widespread after the rocking from the earthquake and a series of aftershocks.

The Fresno crews will be in the Mojave Desert until at least Monday, as officials warn of more earthquakes, following a sequence of shaking that hasn’t stopped since a 6.4 earthquake struck the region on Fourth of July.

Fresno professor monitoring situation

There have been at least 5,000 earthquakes in the last seven days coming from the same region, but not all have reached large magnitudes, said Fresno State geology professor Christopher Pluhar.

Many Fresnans and residents throughout the Valley felt the rocking from Friday’s strong earthquake. Still, the Fresno region has stayed relatively safe from violent shaking that affects other parts of the state.

Geographically, Fresno is located in between several earthquake-prone faults. But none reach the city close enough to cause significant danger, Pluhar said. He also added the nearest faults have not produced recent earthquakes.

The classification of the Ridgecrest-area earthquakes have changed from mainshocks, aftershocks and foreshocks. Friday’s earthquake surpassed Thursday’s earthquake as the mainshock, which is the most powerful quake in a series. Foreshocks come before larger seismic events while afterchocks are smaller quakes that occur after strong earthquakes.

Officials predict a small percent chance that a larger earthquake could come after Friday’s.

“The number of earthquakes seems normal,” Pluhar said. “It’s just a testament that it’s an active area. The people who live in that area should expect that there will be more earthquakes.”

Pluhar said he has noticed a strange shape to the direction of the temblors. He said at first it shaped an “L” but now the quakes have shaped a “T.” He said that may suggest there is possibly more than one active fault in the same area.

“Normally, the aftershocks follow some kind of a line that defines the fault,” he said.

But Pluhar said Saturday the Mojave Desert region has not had its fault lines well-mapped, because some faults may have been concealed by sediments. He said this provides experts the opportunity to learn about new faults.

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Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a journalist at The Fresno Bee. He covers the people and places experiencing economic and social inequity for The California Divide media collaboration. He grew up in the southern San Joaquin Valley and has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Fresno State.