Firefighters are hoping for a reprieve from the massive blazes they faced this summer as local agencies announce the end of the 2010 wildland fire season Monday.
"All the major fires in California happened in Kern County this year," Kern County Fire Department spokesman Sean Collins said.
The Bull, West, Canyon and Post fires left thousands of acres scorched and destroyed dozens of residences and other structures. Crews of firefighters from agencies both in and out of Kern County battled the blazes. The Red Cross provided services to residents displaced by the fires. It was a busy, devastating fire season.
The West Fire alone destroyed 23 homes and 41 outbuildings in the rural Old West Ranch community. It burned 1,658 acres after investigators say it was ignited by two men cutting steel pipes with a mechanized saw. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger even declared a state of emergency in the county to rapidly deploy firefighting resources to the area.
In all, the Kern County Fire Department extinguished 618 vegetation fires with a total of 8,484 acres during the 2010 fire season. The Bakersfield office of the Bureau of Land Management responded to 155 wildfires totaling 5,300 acres, and the Sequoia National Forest/Giant Sequoia National Monument and Tule River Reservation Fire Department fought 71 wildfires that added up to 30,000 acres.
With more rainfall and cooler weather, there's less chance of a large wildfire breaking out, Collins said. But residents still need to maintain defensible space around their property by clearing brush and other flammable materials, he said.
"You only need a little wind to dry the moisture off the grass," Collins said.
Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Debbie Santiago said this fire season agencies experienced several large fires at the same time that really tested them. She said Bakersfield BLM was a lot busier than the year before, when they fought 90 fires. She attributes the increase partly to the huge quantities of tall, dry grass the area had after last year's rains.
"There's still a lot of dry fuel out there," Santiago said.
There have been some smaller fires in the past few days and, even though seasonal forces are leaving until next year, BLM and other agencies will be prepared and ready to respond, she said.