Gov. declares state of emergency following Galleria arson

Will enable displaced workers to receive unemployment benefits faster
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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Placer County Friday, a day after a man barricaded himself inside and set fires to the Galleria Mall. The pronouncement suspended regulations in order to expedite debris cleanup and unemployment claims. Schwarzenegger’s move will give officials easier access to “a substantial amount of ash and other debris that will need to be quickly removed.” The California Environmental Protection Agency and California Resources Agency have discretion to implement the order, including waivers for disposal, storage and emergency construction permits. As for unemployment benefits, “applicants who are unemployed as a direct result of the fire and damage,” can bypass the one-week waiting period to file for benefits. In his statement, Schwarzenegger noted “conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property.” His message comes in the wake of fires causing roughly $6.5 million in damages to the mall. Alexander Piggee, 23, allegedly took over a GameStop in the shopping center and ignited several fires that brought down a portion of the roof. Officials arrested the transient, but not before evacuating the 1.5 million-square-foot mall, which remains closed indefinitely. ~ Staff report