LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KGET) — Living in the mountains cuts both ways: You can live there for years, in relative serenity, close to nature and suddenly you’re at nature’s mercy as drought-parched wilderness explodes with a single spark. Folks who live in the Kern River Valley know the risks and rewards, and the French Fire continues to tear through the mountain communities.
Dan Hoskins and his mother Margie know not to mess with mother nature.
“We lost our home in 2003 in the same area due to a forest fire,” Hoskins said. As the French Fire shifted and threatened the community of Keyesville, west of Wofford Heights, Hoskins convinced his mom to evacuate her home on the river and come to the Red Cross evacuation center Friday night.
“I got here this morning to be with her and make sure she and her pets are good, and everyone’s fine and in good spirits,” he said.
As many communities in and around the Kern River Valley remain on wildfire alert, firefighters from all over the region swarmed into the mountains west of Lake Isabella.
Hundreds of firefighters on the front lines and hundreds more assigned to fire suppression are ready to pick and move at a moment’s notice as fire spotters track the wildfire’s fickle movements.
“The fire turned and did a 180 on us yesterday, and the fire jumped by some 8,000 acres, running uphill, creating a new series of problems for us,” Kern County Fire Captain Gary Blake said.
Overhead, huge water dropping helicopters zeroed in on the fire zones deep within the Sequoia National Forest, racing back and forth from Isabella Lake. The fire is gorging itself on drought-stricken timber and brushland.
As heavy equipment is repositioned to carve a containment line between homes and cabins in harms way, sheriff’s deputies ramp up patrols of evacuated mountain communities on the lookout for looters. That provides some peace of mind for Dan and Margie Hoskins as they took the Red Cross invitation to some air conditioned refuge inside the gymnasium at Woodrow Wallace Elementary School in Lake Isabella.
“They’re taking good care of us. They’ve got cots, food whatever you need,” Dan said.
As displaced residents await a long night, those still at home remain on guard and hundreds of firefighters wait for the French Fire to make its next move.