According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the first earthquake struck at 10:33 a.m. July 4 with a 6.4 magnitude and is now considered a foreshock. A second quake shook the area the following day at 8:20 p.m. with a stronger 7.1 magnitude. Estimated economic losses of what the USGS now calls the Searles Quake are at least $1 billion; furthermore, the air control tower at Plant 42 was also damaged. The exact extent of that damage is still under review.
The USGS calls it the strongest seismic activity in more than 20 years. Following both quakes, Edwards AFB emergency crews surveyed local buildings for damage.
“Crews maintained their posture locally after the (July 4th) earthquake; responders went through the base looking for damage during that time,” said Timothy Johnson, Edwards AFB Fire and Emergency Services fire chief. “(Then) I received a request from NAWS China Lake Fire Department to help support in damage assessment, fire suppression and accountability of any lost personnel.”
The Edwards AFB response consisted of a fire engine company, a rescue company and a division chief, Johnson said.
Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, commended Edwards AFB response locally, as well as in support of NAWS China Lake.
“After the quakes…our defender, firefighter and civil engineer teams went out to do initial damage assessment to ensure Edwards (AFB) and Plant 42 was safe and secure; we immediately established communications with Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and they didn’t need anything from us after the Thursday quake, but they needed our help on Friday,” Teichert said. “And immediately, we deployed a fire and rescue team to work throughout the night and morning to do their initial response and emergency response for what they needed at NAWS China lake.”
Besides emergency first responders, Edwards AFB also deployed structural, electrical and plumbing engineers to NAWS China Lake. The base also underwent preparations in the event the Federal Emergency Management Agency needed to use Edwards AFB as a staging base.
Teichert thanked members of Edwards AFB for their actions in a video message he released through social media.
“Thank you so much for being part of an incredible team,” Teichert said. “On a four-day weekend, you demonstrated your genuine concern for others, your professionalism and perfectly described some of those principles in the National Defense Strategy — like full-spectrum readiness and partnering with joint teams. Thank you so much for what you do every single day.”
“The station was evacuated and later closed amid reports that some of its structures were damaged by the earthquakes. On July 5, the station confirmed via Facebook that the epicenter was located on two faults on its property, which spans an area larger than Rhode Island,” according to Business Insider.
Earlier this year, the station’s groundwater was found to contain elevated levels of a class of harmful chemicals called polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
Any potential damage or leaks at the site could be cause for serious concern.
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