Fire Officials: Defensible space tactics helped save homes during French Fire

Local News

ALTA SIERRA, Calif. (KGET) – Firefighters are using all available options to curb the spread of the fire but it’s one tactic in particular- used in the last 20 years of firefighting – that’s allowed people to come back into their homes.

“We went to Bakersfield and we found a hotel that would accept us with the dog,” recalls Donna Dean of the moments she was to evacuate her home as the French Fire exploded. “We chose to stay down there until we were for sure that we could back up here because we did not want to have to go thru this again if we had to evacuate.”

The fire has burned more than 25,000 acres, and it is now 40-percent contained, more than 1,400 firefighters are working on the French Fire.

“I said Oh my gosh, let’s get home, let’s check our house,” said Dean.  “We came home, the fire department was amazing, all these workers up there did an awesome job.”

Firefighters credit homes that are still standing to hazard reduction created by property owners better known as “defensible space.”

Andrew Kennison, Division Chief for the Kern County Fire Department explains that homeowners have the power to prevent wildfires but also the opportunity to save, prepare and prevent their homes from burning.

“The trees, the brush, the grass, they store energy,” said Chief Kennison.  “When we don’t reduce that amount of fuel in there, when we don’t reduce that amount of vegetation in there, all that energy in these drought conditions is released and it is released quickly.”

Its recommended that you remove any dead vegetation at least 100 feet from your property.  This will give fire crews the chance to work to defend your property but will also serves as a mechanism to defend your home if they can’t be there to do so.

Every fire fight is quite challenging for fire crews, the French Fire featured unique challenges for fire crews, among them: the rough terrains of the Kern River Valley now decorated with charred trees and powdery white ash.

 “It’s still very risky,” said Batallion Chief Jim Calhoun.  “It’s still a fire that we are going to talk about for a long time in our career and it was touch and go, the guys were on point and they did their job well.”

“There is no damage at all,” said Dean.  “There’s ash, but hey I can live with that, I have my house.”

More information on prevention measures can be found by visiting

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