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National Guard will help stranded, snowed-in residents in San Bernardino Mountains

Members of the California National Guard will arrive in the San Bernardino Mountains Thursday afternoon to help people trapped in their homes by heavy snow for several days, officials said.

Lake Arrowhead received more than eight feet of snow in the past week as a series of winter storms blanketed mountain resorts and communities across California, according to the National Weather Service. Although the snowfall has eased, many residents remain stranded as crews work around the clock to clear roads and highways.

The appalling conditions have hampered local emergency response, with firefighters having to use snowcats to transport crews and equipment.

On Thursday morning, firefighters in Lake Arrowhead responded to reports of an explosion in a house with surrounding trees on fire. This is reported by the San Bernardino County Fire Department. Neighbors were digging out a nearby fire hydrant when emergency services arrived.

On Wednesday night, firefighters in Blue Jay had to dig through snowfeet to get to a fire hydrant at the scene of a building fire that left two people injured.

The arrival of the National Guard comes after Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for 13 California counties on Wednesday. The proclamation is providing resources to the hardest-hit counties in the state, including San Bernardino.

The California National Guard Joint Task Force Rattlesnake Unit was activated and is expected to arrive at Lake Arrowhead from Fresno Thursday afternoon, according to California Office of Emergency Management spokesman Brian Ferguson. The unit usually works with Cal Fire in clearing vegetation and fighting wildfires.

The governor’s order also allows agencies like Caltrans to contract with out-of-state contractors to clear the roads and provide other road maintenance services, Ferguson said.

“The hope is that this will generate significant resources to support the county,” Ferguson said.

A rescue helicopter unit is on standby in Los Alamitos if San Bernardino agencies need their help, said California National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Brandon Hill.