BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – By the end of the week, Kern County Fire Department will have 15 new firefighters ready to go when the alarms go off. Wildfire season is right around the corner and the ongoing drought is cause for special concern, but as fire officials warn, preparation is key.
“We have more manpower this season than last season,” said KCFD Spokesperson Andrew Freeborn, “We have been running fire academies one after the other this season.”
Fire crews can’t really predict how much will burn this season which officially starts in June. This is the third year of the worst drought in 1,200 years, so California residents should be aware.
Last year was the second-biggest year on record for wildfires burning about 2.6 million acres in California. This year, KCFD recommends preparing for a much worse season.
“We know that if we get fires, they are going to spread fast,” said Freeborn. “They are going to start easily, and they are going to be destructive, we see the conditions are favorable for large devastating fires.”
Last year’s French Fire scorched about 26,535 acres near Lake Isabella. Damaged areas are less at risk, for at least a few years, of again catching fire. Preparedness before it started helped to effectively contain it.
That work includes setting-controlled burns before the start of the season to ensure fuel is reduced. KCFD has the next one planned for Wednesday near Highway 223 and Highway 58 between 4 pm and midnight. During the burn traffic may be affected on Highway 223, drivers will see, and smell smoke and they are asked to keep an eye for firefighters and to reduce their speed.
“This is about 7 miles long,” said Freeborn. “We’ve done this for the last several years and it has been very successful.”
Dry weather coupled with cooler days makes the perfect time to prepare your property, but those days are counted as hotter temperatures are heading our way.
“Clear that vegetation around your property,” said Freeborn. “Remove those dry leaves and needles in that first 30 feet, make sure trees are limbed down 6 feet from the ground.” June 1st is the deadline to create those fuel breaks around properties in fire-prone areas, residents who don’t comply may face a fine. If a wildfire occurs, individuals need to listen to information provided by fire authorities and follow it.
“Our efforts are correct,” said Freeborn. “Our efforts to prepare our community and to train are where they should be.”