Photo via OnScene.TV.
Photo via OnScene.TV.

Hours after the county The Board of Supervisors ratified a local emergency proclamation in response to the Sand Fire burning in Santa Clarita, acting Gov. Tom Torlakson officially declared a state of emergency Tuesday to free up state resources to help the area recover from the blaze.

Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, is acting governor while Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials are attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

The declaration makes state resources available to help fire-recovery efforts, including waiving of fees for residents to replace state documents destroyed in the fire.

State funding could also be made available to rebuild homes and businesses damaged or destroyed by the blaze, and some money can be used to manage health concerns about air quality in the wake of the fire.

The Board of Supervisors also called for a review of the county’s aerial firefighting apparatus in light of the ever-expanding fire season.

“Now our fire season is 12 months out of the year” versus a few months, Supervisor Michael Antonovich told his colleagues.

Fire officials have said the Southland already has one of the largest fleets of firefighting aircraft in the country, and Antonovich said 28 aircraft were being used to battle the Sand Fire. But he said the county can always use more.

The county plans to review the possibility of buying, leasing or partnering with other agencies to bring on SuperScoopers, rotary or fixed-wing aircraft.

The county leases a Helitanker which is set to arrive Aug. 1, two weeks earlier than planned, and three SuperScooper aircraft from Canada that are expected to arrive in early September.

However, given the “extreme ongoing risk of fire” because of the five- year drought, Antonovich recommended exploring options for having at least one of the leased aircraft available year-round.

—City News Service

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