The Erskine Fire, which has ravaged the southern Sierra Nevada of central Kern County for five days now, had burned 45,000 acres, destroyed 200 structures, left dozens homeless and killed two as of Monday evening.

Earlier Monday, area residents finally received a measure of positive news when fire officials announced several areas have reopened and residents could return home. Power is being restored, damage is being assessed and the long process of recovery is in its preliminary stages.

At noon, Yankee Canyon and Mountain Mesa reopened to residents, as did communities east of South Lake including Larson Tract, Navajo, Hillview Acres, Bella Vista and Weldon. 

Yankee Canyon and Mountain Mesa were without power, firefighters said, and bottled water was made available. The communities east of South Lake had power, but residents with compromised water systems were asked to follow water safety guidelines, including boiling water for two to five minutes to disinfect.

Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason said he was “very proud of the strength and breadth” of the county’s response to the disaster.

In a written statement released Monday, Gleason said county employees will continue to protect residents, see to the material and emotional needs of those displaced and care for and provide homes to animals without a home.

“The Erskine Fire has been a most humbling experience,” Gleason said. “It is a reminder that while some of us are fortunate to live near the beauty of nature, in an instant, nature can show its other face, sending us the most destructive fire in Kern County history.”

A transition center will open at noon Tuesday to support the needs of residents who have returned home, firefighters said. Supplies including water, household goods and personal hygiene items, will be available at the center at Wallace Elementary School at 3240 Erskine Creek Road in Lake Isabella.

Containment of the fire rose to 45 percent and fire officials said during a press conference at 6 p.m. Monday that it continued to improve. The blaze has moved east and south of Lake Isabella and away from heavily populated areas.

Full containment is expected Thursday. 

Law enforcement

Kern County sheriffs’ deputies arrested a person Sunday evening who was walking in an area that had been closed off due to the fire, sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said. The person was carrying two guns in a duffel bag.

Pruitt added that law enforcement have received reports from area residents of media trespassing on private property and sifting through rubble. He acknowledged the media has a right to be in areas affected by a natural disaster, but asked it be respectful of people’s property.

Anyone with a missing or unaccounted for family member or friend associated with the Erskine Fire is asked to call the Kern County Sheriff’s Office at 861-3110, a Sheriff’s Office news release said.

The release said the Sheriff's Office cannot take reports on its Facebook page, nor can it monitor reports posted on Facebook or other social media sites.

Road Closures

Highway 178 is now open, but the following roads off the highway remain closed: Entrada, McCray Road, Dogwood, Kelso Valley Road and Kelso Creek Road.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains closed from Walker Basin Campground to Jawbone Canyon Road.

Utilities

Power has been restored to about 2,300 homes and businesses in portions of the South Fork Valley, mostly South Lake and Weldon north of the intersection of Kelso Valley Road and Kelso Creek Road, fire officials said. About 700 customers remain without power.

Southern California Edison has connected generators at Mountain Mesa Market, Mesa Clinical Pharmacy and Rural Health Clinic, which will serve as a temporary urgent care facility. As of Monday, 116 of 200 damaged distribution poles and 11 of 30 damaged transmission poles have been replaced.

Donations

Monetary donations are being accepted at the local chapter of the Red Cross and for the United Way of Kern County.

Non-monetary, non-food donations should be dropped off at Goodwill locations throughout the county, mostly in Bakersfield, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Fire officials said Houchin Community Blood Bank is also accepting non-monetary donations at its locations at 11515 Bolthouse Drive and 5901 Truxtun Ave.

Donations should not be sent to the shelters.

Non-perishable food donations should be directed to the Lake Isabella Food Pantry at 4621 Lake Isabella Blvd., attention of Steve or Phillis. Donations are accepted 24 hours a day. 

The Elks Lodge at 7608 Wofford Blvd. in Wofford Heights is in need of non-perishable food donations, fire officials said. The Elks Lodge is no longer accepting non-food donations.

Animal-related donations should be directed to Lake Isabella County Animal Shelter at 14891 Highway 178 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Shelters

The American Red Cross of Kern County has two shelters that remain open for residents affected by the fire.

• St. Jude's Catholic Church, 86 Nellie Dent Drive, Wofford Heights

• Kernville Elementary School, 13350 Sierra Way, Kernville

The Red Cross is recommending people who are out of contact with friends and family register on their Safe & Well website.

To either register yourself as "safe and well," or to search for a loved one, go to https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php.

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