On July 7, 2019 I wrote a blog detailing the events and consequences of the Ridgecrest Independence Day earthquakes on our home in California. At the time I had no idea of the irony that I would discover.

I have been fond of joking why we kept our home and property in California when we became residents of Alaska. We have too much stuff to move! On the weekend of Independence Day two separate earthquakes moved much of it for us. The first earthquake measured 6.4 on the Richter scale and was centered in Searles Valley, near the town of Trona. (Next valley over from the town of Ridgecrest). This earthquake had an east to west motion. The following day a 7.1 magnitude earthquake with a north to south motion continued to rock the block. This second earthquake was epicentered just north of the town of Ridgecrest on the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Given the exponential nature of the Richter scale, the second earthquake was 5 times as strong as the first earthquake.

Damage assessment

Of course, this all happened while we are in residence in Alaska. My big concern was for our 5,000 gallon water tank on the property. A neighbor inspected the property for me and reported everything appeared fine. (For the record, this is a mobile home. I am very thankful that we installed seismic jack-stands under the home during a remodel a few years ago.) Our neighbor took some photos of the house and inside the house through the doors and windows. I was surprised to see how much was left standing or hanging on the walls. The most notable damage was to our rear door, which got cracked and would need to be replaced upon our return.

Ridgecrest earthquake, burglary

I contacted a friend to do a more thorough review of the property and see to some details. Please walk around the yard and make sure that irrigation lines are not forming lakes. Please toss anything broken on the back porch and move fallen items to corners of the house. When we return in December we will not have so much to trip over. I got a call back with good reports overall, but the back door could not be secured. Friend David went to the local hardware store and bought some brackets to secure the door from inside.

Home at last to sort things out

Upon our return to California, we were delighted to see how little damage we sustained overall. A lot of things had fallen over, and a lot of things had not. Over time I was able to make an observation that everything that did fall was the result of the smaller east to west earthquake. Very little displacement occurred in the north to south earthquake that was five times stronger.

I was surprised to find that in both bathrooms in the house, the toilets were full of waste. I had turned off the water and gas to the house prior to our departure to Alaska. Had the septic system back-flushed?

I found it curious that friend David had packed a lot of bags with clothes that might have otherwise been in cabinets, bureaus and chests. Lots of items were collected in trash bags. Items from either end of the house were located in bags in the middle of the house. I know that David likes his beverage, and I was beginning to wonder how much. He did a very good job at straightening the chaos, though I was thinking he went a bit overboard.

It finally dawns on me

After a few days Carolyn had not been able to locate some jewelry and money. The next day I collected a few boxes of .22 shells to put with the firearms. Uh …. no firearms where I left them. 2+2=?. Out to inspect the back door I quickly came to the conclusion that the damage to the door was not the result of an earthquake. It is the result of a burglary.

The following day David comes to visit. I ask if he found any guns that he might have secreted away. He never saw any guns. We went out to look at the back door. He exclaims to me: “It did not look like that when I secured the door!”

Ridgecrest earthquake, burglary

And how about those bags and trash bags packed in the house? David wondered why we had left so much stuff packed up lying everywhere when we left for Alaska. Apparently he did not pack these, nor had he moved them in the course of his cleanup. He left them where he assumed we had left them. Over the course of days to follow we determined in addition to some cash, jewelry, and firearms (old enough to not be registered unfortunately) I was missing a guitar, some old swords, and camera equipment in addition to numerous miscellaneous items. The selection often appeared fairly random. Some very low-value items were removed while other valuable items were passed over.

This series of photos and observations leads me to a set of conclusions. Given the first photo was taken the day after the first earthquake, but before the second earthquake, the initial burglary occurred before the first earthquake. This conclusion is reinforced by the amount of property missing and all the bags packed for a continuation of the burglary. Given the missing piece of wood from the area of the door lockset, the burglars had returned to continue their thievery after the second earthquake, and found their plans foiled. Had it not been for the earthquakes and the subsequent securement of the back door, we would have lost much more personal property. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake saved our property.

Follow up, or lack thereof

We did file a police report. Given the burglary occurred no later than early July, and we returned in early December, we understood it would be a very cold case. Not much chance of recovery, especially without serial numbers on the firearms.

Recently we found a cup with the name of “Kailo” behind our pump house. It was with a number of items taken from the house, but left behind on our property. A Google search turned up the name of a local 18-year old by that name with a long sheet of priors. We informed the Kern County Sheriff office, who are well aware of the kid. But they would not do much about it, since the cup was not in the house. Only on the property with other stolen items. What’s wrong with this picture, and shame on Kailo. We know who you are now.

I have owned this property in Ridgecrest for 31 years. We have never bothered locking the doors at night or when we leave to go shopping. I regret those days are over.

More reading?

For more information on local quakes, visit the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC)

More information on the Ridgecrest earthquakes from SCEC: https://www.scec.org/publication/9937