This story was originally published on April 14. Kern County Fire Chief Duncan joined 17 News at Sunrise to talk about the issue on April 20.
KERN COUNTY, Calif. (KGET) — Wildfire season in California officially starts in June. About two weeks out, and continuing into the third year of the worst drought in 1,200 years, California residents should be aware.
Last year was the second biggest year on record for wildfires burning about 2.6 million acres of land in California.
But officials with the Kern County Fire Department said it’s important to prepare for 2022’s wildfire season under the impression that it will be worse.
“There’s no accurate way to forecast it [the severity of the season],” said Andrew Freeborn, KCFD public information officer. “The way that we try to go into every summer is the way we think everyone should go into it: prepare for it to be bad so you’re prepared to the highest level you can be.”
“The fact that we are having droughts so many years in a row is the proof that we need to prepare,” Freeborn added.
Freeborn said each year of an ongoing drought creates more areas of dry vegetation that may not have been dry the year before. Vegetation becomes dryer, more brittle and more susceptible for fires to not only start, but that burn more rapidly and more intensely.
Freeborn said all of Kern County is very susceptible to fires this year. The mountain communities in Kern all have similar geography, altitudes and plant varieties that have suffered from drought and damage or death from beetles.
“Any of the forested land is at risk for wildfires,” Freeborn said. “If individuals live, work or are visiting these areas, they need to understand that there is a risk of fire.”
Last year’s French Fire scorched about 26,535 acres near Lake Isabella. But Freeborn said the damaged area from 2021 is less at risk, for at least a few years, of again catching fire.
“Typically an area that burns is less susceptible the following year,” Freeborn said. “All of what was already burned is gone.”
“But the area outside of that area is very susceptible,” Freeborn added.
Freeborn said KCFD is taking steps to reduce wildfire risks to Kern communities.
Freeborn said the department was able to contain the French Fire so effectively due to work they did before it started, creating fuel breaks and familiarizing themselves with the area and weather patterns.
“That helps tremendously when it comes to the community’s safety,” Freeborn said.
Freeborn important tips:
- Every person needs to prepare for wildfires.
- If a wildfire occurs, individuals need to listen to the info provided and follow it.
KCFD said there are wildfire preparedness events scheduled on the following dates:
- Saturday, April 23, between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m., Frazier Mountain Park, 3801 Park Drive, Frazier Park, Calif.
- Saturday, April 30, between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m., Golden Hills Community Service District, 21415 Reeves St., Tehachapi, Calif.
- Saturday, May 14, between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m., Lake Isabella Park, 5000 Lake Isabella Blvd., Lake Isabella, Calif.
“We’re all at risk for wildfires here in Kern County,” Freeborn said. “We all need to do what we can to prepare ourselves. If these wildfires occur…The best thing a person can do is listen to the advice.”