A fast moving wildfire has consumed more than 19,000 acres in Southern and Central California, prompting officials to evacuate a number of communities in Kern County.
According to recent statistics from the Los Angeles Times, the devastating fire has drawn more than 600 firefighters to its scene to combat the severely devastating flames that have already destroyed 100 buildings — including at least 80 residences — and seen the evacuation of more than 2,000 California residents.
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Unfortunately, according to Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall, a better estimate of the damage will not be available until “later.”
“I’ve never been in a wildland fire where I’ve seen so many homes burn,” said Kern County Fire Captain Tyler Townsend of the blaze, classifying it as “extremely dangerous [and] extremely volatile.”
Townsend, who noted that he has lived in Kern County for almost an entire decade, added that the California fire is “one of he most devastating I’ve ever seen.”
Much of this devastation, some officials have noted, comes as a result of the deadly combination of high heat, low humidity, and dangerous winds. The fire — which officials are attributing to years of drought, extreme heat, and strong winds — is now going strong in the town of Erskine, which sits just south of California Route 178 near Lake Isabella. Now, officials claim that other small California communities such as South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Yankee Canyon, and Mountain Mesa may also be at a very high risk to catch fire.
“The wind, the heat and the low humidity… just drive(s) a fire,” said Geri Jackson, a spokesperson with Sequoia National Forest, to the newspaper. “When the fire initially started, it took off quickly.”
In just 13 hours, the California fire has consumed more than 11 miles of land. According to officials, this is in large part due to unusually strong winds as well as the presence of dead grass and dried out trees caused by years of scorching drought.
Much of this area, Kern County officials noted, includes rural neighborhoods.
“In a situation like this, there’s not enough fire trucks and firefighers to put in front of every structure,” noted Marshall of the grim brush fire, also stating that fire officials are “working whole neighborhoods” to try to prevent its ultra dangerous spread.
“Firefighers from all agencies… have been engaged in a firefight of epic proportions,” Marshall added. “[We’re] trying to save every structure possible.”
A temporary evacuation center has been established at the Kernville Elementary School, but many fear this short term solution will provide little solace for the thousands who may now be homeless. Other shelters have also been set up at Lake Isabella’s senior center and Kern Valley High School, although long lines are already being reported at all locations.
“It just kept climbing and climbing over the mountains,” Weldon resident Cher Buys told the L.A. Times, recounting her own fire evacuation story.
According to Buys, she stepped outside of her home around 7 p.m. and into a wall of smoke that prevented her from even being able to see her neighbor’s house next door. That was when Buys, after taking a few items from her home, drove off in her own vehicle as firefighters began to arrive to evacuate others in the area.
Buys, just like the fire officials combating the serious blaze, also said that she had never seen a fire of such intensity before, and noted that “For [the California fire] to move though five towns is a lot.”
Unfortunately, the situation may only get worse.
Temperatures in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas could climb well into the 100 degrees over the weekend, while humidity could continue to drop and winds continue to get stronger, noted National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Hall to the Times.
Unfortunately for residents of Kern County, this news could only exacerbate what has become a nightmare of a fire.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]