Earthquakes leaves dozens of homes unfit for living in Trona

Benny Eldridge, 76, and his wife, Anna Sue, 75, outside their red-tagged home in Trona. The Eldridges planned to move to Bakersfield to live with one of their daughters.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

More than 30 homes have been red-tagged as uninhabitable and 51 were yellow-tagged due to serious damage in Trona and surrounding San Bernardino County communities following two large earthquakes last week, according to initial damage assessments by state and local officials.

The assessment includes Trona and nearby Argus, as well as the communities of Red Mountain and Windy Acres. It does not include the town of Ridgecrest, near the epicenter, which is in Kern County.

In addition to the more than 80 damaged homes, eight commercial buildings were red-tagged and four were yellow-tagged, meaning they are not suitable for overnight stays, according to a news release from the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

The assessment was done by the department’s Damage Assessment Team with help from other county offices and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, or Cal OES.


Four underground fuel storage tanks were also red-tagged.

Officials said the number of damaged homes and buildings will probably increase as they field additional calls for inspections and as aftershocks continue to rock the region. As of Friday, 165 properties had been inspected.

Since the July 4 quake, there have been 70 quakes of magnitude 4 or greater. Friday morning, the region was hit by a magnitude 4.9 aftershock.

Ridgecrest surprised structural engineers when it emerged largely unscathed from the quakes.

Experts have said there are a number of reasons for that, including the fact that the town of about 29,000 residents does not have a large number of unretrofitted brick buildings or “soft story” apartments with ground floors built to accommodate parking.

But Trona, an unincorporated town southwest of Death Valley with a population under 2,000, appears to have been hit harder by both big temblors — a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck on the Fourth of July and the 7.1-magnitude quake the next day.

The natural disasters compounded the troubles of a community that has struggled for decades.

In the days after the earthquakes, there was no running water, electricity was unstable, and many residents resorted to sleeping in their cars or yards.

Given the large number of aftershocks, officials have urged residents to “continue using caution and evaluate the stability of their homes.”

Residents who want their homes to be inspected can call (877) 410-8829. Additional supportive services are available at the local assistance center at Trona High School.

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