(AP) - Firefighters are holding the line on a series of wildfires threatening homes in the foothills outside Bakersfield, but progress could be tougher if thunderstorms bring lightning and gusty winds.
Wildfires sparked by weekend lightning storms have burned more than 84 square miles of oak and brush land south of Bakersfield and in Sequoia National Forest.
The 23,000-acre Comanche fire complex was 30 percent contained Monday, but Kern County fire Capt. Bill Brickey says evacuations are still advised for Stallion Springs, where hundreds of homes are in danger.
The 7,025-acre Keene fire complex was 92 percent contained, and scattered homes are at risk.
A 24,000-acre fire in Sequoia is 20 percent contained.
"Overnight, firefighters worked to protect homes in the area. Despite the increased fire activity, no structures were destroyed. Today, tempatures will be a bit warmer than yesterday. Light winds are expected and more thunderstorms are likely.""Fire activity increased yesterday (Sunday) afternoon on the southeast portion of the fire as it moved up to the Stallion Springs area," according to a Kern County Fire Department statement.
Previous story: Sunday, 9:30 p.m.
Firefighters in planes, fire engines, bulldozers and trucks raced to the edge of Stallion Springs Saturday afternoon and prevented a wildfire from ripping through homes on the edge of town.
An evacuation was “recommended” for residents, but no homes were lost.
It was a close call.
A dozen fires were burning throughout Kern when the Comanche Fire turned on Stallion Springs, and the first call incident commanders made was for air support. That brought planes and helicopters from other fires – tankers that already were in the air, already loaded.
The planes and choppers dumped water and retardant between the fire and the houses. Some planes swept in just above the oak trees in the area, dumping bright red retardant into backyards.
That slowed the fire long enough for ground crews to reach the area. Dozens of trucks raced to the area.
On one street, there was a fire engine at every house, a crew standing between the fire and the home.
By , the worst was over and fire crews had stopped the fire. As of 10 p.m., the fire was 30 percent contained and had burned more than 23,000 acres.
Some of them stayed to mop up, some stayed in case of a flare up, some moved to protect Bear Valley Springs, and some moved to some of the other fires in Kern County.
As of , more than 42,000 acres had burned in Kern County. No structures had been lost, and all injuries were minor.
The county opened its Emergency Operating Center at about and set up a number for concerned residents to call.
The public is invited to call 661-873-2680 for information regarding the fire.
No homes were lost Saturday or Sunday morning as firefighters from throughout the state struggled to contain dozens of lightning-caused fires in Kern County Saturday and Sunday.
Although hundreds of people in the mountains east of Bakersfield were warned evacuations might become necessary, no evacuations were ordered.
A "State of Emergency" remained in place for Kern County because of the number of fires, and an emergency command post remained activated Sunday afternoon.
The several injuries reported were all described as minor.
The latest information is available at a county call center. Residents can call 211 or 661-873-2680 for information. Hundreds of calls were received.
Information also is available from the Kern County Fire Department website, or from the KCFD Facebook page.
PG&E crews were restoring power throughout the county, but some isolated areas remained without electricity. In the town of Tupman, west of Interstate 5, one residents said neighbors who relied on medical machines were endangered because of the outage there.
At one point Saturday, 50 fires were burning, all caused by the spectacular lightning storm that started about 3 a.m. Saturday or by a second storm that hit Saturday afternoon.
In all, about 34,000 acres burned county-wide.
Two of the biggest fires, and the most danger to homes and other structures, were “complexes” – groups of small fires clustered in the same area.
- The Comanche Complex, four major fires which spread from Interstate 5 near the Grapevine to the hills on the south side of Highway 58 near Arvin, have blackened about 16,500 acres.
- The Keene Complex, where three major fires in mountains north of the community of Keene, have burned about 6,200 acres.
- The Milano fire, which is burning on Breckenridge Road east of Comanche Drive in the Walker Basin, has charred about 10,000 acres. Containment is unknown.
- The Blue Fire has consumed 1,200 acres north of Highway 155 between Blue Mountain Road and White River Boulevard. It is 80 percent contained and no structures are threatened.
The Harris Fire, which is part of the Comanche Complex, is menacing the mountain communities of Bear Valley Springs, Stallion Springs, and Golden Hills. Precautionary evacuations have been posted there, meaning residents have been advised they may have to leave their homes if conditions worsen. As of 1 p.m. Sunday, conditions had not worsened.
About 300 firefighters, 30 fire engines, a helicopter, and three bulldozers were on the working to get containment of the Comanche fires.
The Keene Complex fires are in the mountains around Caliente Creek Road and Walker Basin Road, between the community of Caliente Creek and the Lake Isabella area.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says 500 structures are threatened by those three fires.
More than 1,300 firefighters from as far away as Oregon are working the Keene fires.
"The weather is a double-edged sword today," said Paul Lowenthal of the City of Santa Rosa Fire Department, who was assigned to the Keene Complex headquarters. "It’s breezy, with no cloud cover. That’s bad. It dries things out, which is, obviously, a concern of ours. But there’s no new lightning today, which is good for us."
Highway 178, which had been closed by a two fires Saturday night, was re-opened Sunday.
"Hard closures," meaning no one is permitted, were in effect Sunday afternoon for parts of Caliente Creek Road, Caliente-Bodfish Road, Walker Basin Road, and
Caliente Bodfish Road between Rankin Ranch and Caliente Creek Road.
"Soft closures," in which residents only are permitted, were in place on Pinion Canyon at Woodford Tehachapi Road, Woodford-Tehachapi Road between Golden Hills and Keene, Woodford-Tehachapi Road between Keene and Tehachapi, Walker Basin, Caliente Bodfish Road and Breckenridge Road and Comanche Drive.
A football game between Bakersfield College and Saddleback College, which was canceled because of lightning Saturday, has been rescheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. at BC’s Memorial Stadium. Tickets for Saturday’s game will be honored, and tickets will be on sale in the Bakersfield College Ticket Office or available for purchase at the gates.
All planned festivities, including free admission for military, police and fire, will continue as planned, and the halftime tribute to those who have served our country will still take place.