As the Shirley Fire grew to about 810 acres Saturday night, Kern County Sheriff's Office officials said they began evacuating more than 500 homes in the Wofford Heights area of the Kern River Valley.
The sheriff's office said in a news release that the areas of mandatory evacuation are Pala Ranches, Juniper Highlands, Old State Road and residences between Old State Road and Evans Road on Highway 155. Additionally, an advisory evacuation was in effect in the Alta Sierra area.
Throughout the Kern River Valley, residents with health problems were advised to stay indoors.
People in the Shirley Meadows and Alta Sierra areas got word of potential hazards through reverse 911 calls.
"We want residents to be aware of the possibilities," U.S. Forest Service officals said in a news release.
At 4 p.m, they said the number of firefighters battling the blaze still hovered around 275 and that the fire was still just 5 percent contained. The cause of the fire was still under investigation.
The Kern County Fire Department reported at 9:30 p.m. Saturday that the blaze was most active in the Rattlesnake Creek area, about a mile southwest of Wofford Heights. .
The National Forest System Roads closed were:
• Rancheria Road from its intersection with Highway 155, then south about eight miles to its intersection with Sawmill Road.
• Wagy Flat Road from its intersection with Old State Road, then south about three miles.
• Sawmill Road from its intersection with Rancheria Road, then east about six miles.
• Alder Creek Road from Alder Creek Campground, then south and east about eight miles to its intersection with Rancheria Road.
The fire started Friday in a remote area off maintained roads south of Highway 155 and east of Alta Sierra. High winds carried embers up to 300 feet away.
Shifting winds, high temperatures and relatively low himidity were of concern.
There were no reports of injuries.
Residents wanting updates were advised to sign up for them at ReadyKern.com or call 211.
At Cheryl's Diner in Kernville, business went on as usual Saturday, unaffected by the smoke, said waitress Michelle Walker. It was as busy as ever, she said, noting that several firefighters came in throughout the day.
She estimated visibility to be affected by about 10 percent — thick enough to see, but not too thick to see through.
"It's the talk of the whole valley," Walker said. "It's all anybody is talking about."
No one at the diner knew what to make of the fire and its ensuing smoke: Walker said "everybody's clueless. And if anyone knew, it'd be us. We're gossip central."