Did arsonists target cypress trees in northeast Bakersfield? It sure looks like it

Local News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kern County fire investigators are looking into an odd string of fires that occurred this week near Bakersfield Country Club — tree fires, a half dozen of them within a roughly 12 hour period Monday —  including some in broad daylight.

Specifically, cypress trees, those distinctively rich green trees that often tower over neighborhoods.

Cypress trees and bushes come in many varieties but among their commonalities is this — they’re among the most flammable.

That fact was underscored Monday when a series of fires near Bakersfield Country Club destroyed dozens of cypress trees — among other torched species.

The aftermath was heartbreaking.

Kern County Fire officials aren’t saying much more about the fires than this — they’re investigating the cause or causes.

At this juncture county fire spokesman Andrew Freeborn would only concede half jokingly that there were no lightning strikes reported in the area. But as to whether arson investigators found evidence of an accelerant, such as gasoline, he said he had no information.

But this is no joke. A half-dozen homeowners didn’t just lose trees — 50 feet tall in some cases — they nearly lost their homes. This homeowner on Country Club Drive, who didn’t want to comment on camera, lost several cypress trees and a portion of his wood shingle roof. He and another man were replacing singles Thursday.

Heather Spring, who lives on College Avenue, had to run out the door with a naked 1-year-old in her arms after she realized the 10 cypress trees her father planted 47 years ago were ablaze.

She said the house she shares with her husband, small child and father sustained smoke damage and a pet desert tortoise was seriously injured.

“Monday afternoon about 1 p.m. I was sitting in my backyard and I saw some smoke coming from the front,” she said, “and I noticed one of my cypress trees was fully engulfed. But the time I got to the front of the house the second tree was enflamed. By the time I grabbed my baby the third one went up. So it was like matchsticks.”

Her next door neighbor, Randy Behill, had to continuously hose down the roof of his garage — just a few feet from the inferno — until firefighters arrived. He saved his house but not this car parked in the driveway. Parts of it melted.

“12 o’clock the night before they did a house back here on Braeburn and on Country Club Drive,” Behill said. “Same thing, same trees. Just dumb people,. Careless people.”

Behill said he heard speculation that the fires may have been started by individuals making videos they then posted on Tiktok, a social media site with 800 million viewers worldwide — and indeed, fire officials as far away as England and New Zealand say arsonists motivated by supposed Tiktok glory have been responsible for fires in those countries.

Efforts to contact Tiktok were unsuccessful, but USA Today quoted spokespersons for the social media site as saying videos that depict dangerous or criminal acts are taken down as soon they’re discovered.

Who torched the cypress trees near Bakersfield Country Club? Kern County fire arson investigators would like very much to find out.

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