LOS ANGELES – Federal officials refused requests for housing assistance in the wake of the Sand Fire, which forced some 20,000 people in Santa Clarita to evacuate and destroyed 18 homes, a county official said this week.
“The last time they issued (housing) vouchers was for the Northridge earthquake in 1994,” Housing Authority Director Sean Rogan told the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Before the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will even consider issuing vouchers, an incident needs to be declared a federal disaster, according to Rogan. But even then, vouchers are hard to come by, he said, telling the board that vouchers were not extended to victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The Sand Fire broke out July 22 near Sand Canyon Road along the northbound Antelope Valley (14) Freeway, scorched 41,432 acres and killed a resident before firefighters declared it 100 percent contained Aug. 2. The Sand Fire was declared a state and county emergency.
At the height of the fire, some 20,000 people had to vacate their homes as more than 3,000 fire personnel fought the blaze.
The American Red Cross helped provide temporary shelter for displaced families, and the county offered disaster assistance to help residents deal with short-term needs.
Rogan urged the board to look at other means of funding for intermediate and long-term housing for victims.
Supervisor Hilda Solis agreed, but suggested that the board also reach out to federal legislators to see if new laws could make vouchers more readily available.
In addition to road repairs and flood control, the county is working to expedite permits for families rebuilding their homes, and the assessor is offering property tax deferrals for those affected.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich took the opportunity to remind the public that drones are a hazard that jeopardize firefighting efforts.
He asked county fire Chief Daryl Osby what else could be done to keep drones out of the sky “so that professionals can put out the fire and not jeopardize their lives because of some idiot.”
Osby said his department would continue to reach out and educate the public.
“The worst thing that could occur is one of our helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft crash because of one of those drones,” Osby warned.