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Casey Christie / The Californian

Kern County Fire Department helicopter #408 drops a load of water on a brush fire in the Kern River bottom area, a few hundred yards east of the Chester Avenue bridge Thursday afternoon.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

A brush fire rumbles through the dry grasses along the Kern River bottom area east of the Westchester neighborhoods Thursday.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Fire erupts in thick green vegetation growing on the Kern River bottom as it is fanned by high winds Thursday.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Amy Scott was out delivering flowers for her business "Amy Flowers" when she saw smoke coming from an area near Manor Street and the Kern River. She knew there are horses stables there so she went to help. She directs a sprinkler to spray down any hot spots.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

A Kern County firefighter wades through the water in the Kern River to take more hose to battle a wind aided fire in an area of the Kern River between Manor Street and Chester Avenue Thursday.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

"We're all family here," said Vince Hunnicutt as he looks at a Kern County Fire Department helicopter fly overhead. Residents and horse owners in the area of the Kern River and Manor Street came out to protect the horses and property. Hunnicutt owns horses.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

A horse is spooked as a Kern County Fire Department helicopter flies overhead Thursday afternoon. The horse stables on the north side of the Kern River near Manor Street were threatened for a while Thursday as vegetation fire aided by high winds raced through the Kern River bottom.

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Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

Search and Rescue takes equipment and paddles it across the river.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Kern County Firefighters battle a fire fanned by high winds on the Kern River bottom in an area between Manor Street and the Chester Avenue Bridge Thursday afternoon.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

A firefighter drags a hose through an area of the Kern River bottom that minutes earlier had been engulfed in flame.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

A brush fire burns near the Kern River Parkway off Manor Street Thursday afternoon in the same area as a brush fire last Saturday.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

Kern County Fire and Bakersfield Fire responded to a brush fire Thursday afternoon in the Kern River Parkway area off Manor Drive. This is the exact same area where a brush fire occured Saturday of last week.

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Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

A brush fire burns near the Kern River and Manor Street Thursday afternoon.

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Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

Crews work along the Kern River Thursday afternoon to fight multiple blazes.

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Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

KCFD helicopter is used to make water drops to help contain fire.

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James Burger/ The Californian

Horses are moved away from a fire along the Kern River Thursday afternoon just north of the river and west of Manor Drive.

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James Burger/ The Californian

A fire burns through brush along the Kern River near Manor Street on Thursday afternoon.

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James Burger/ The Californian

Crews arrived to battle the brush fire along the Kern River near Manor Street on Thursday afternoon.

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James Burger/ The Californian

The ground was charred as the fire burned along the Kern River Thursday afternoon.

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James Burger/ The Californian

Crews move in to battle the fire along the Kern River Thursday afternoon.

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James Burger/ The Californian

Crews move in to battle the fire along the Kern River Thursday afternoon.

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James Burger/ The Californian

A column of smoke rises from the fire Thursday afternoon along the Kern River.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Kern County Search and Rescue were called on to shuttle equipment and personnel across the Kern River near Manor Street to fight a vegetation fire.

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Henry A. Barrios / The CalifornianKern County Search and Rescue were called on to use rafts to shuttle equipment and personnel across the Kern River near Manor Street to fight a vegetation fire.

Henry A. Barrios / The CalifornianKern County Search and Rescue were called on to use rafts to shuttle equipment and personnel across the Kern River near Manor Street to fight a vegetation fire.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

A wind aided fire burning aggressively in the Kern River bottom near Manor Street is assessed for a battle plan.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

A wind aided fire burning aggressively in the Kern River bottom near Manor Street is assessed for a battle plan.

Two wind-whipped fires in dense brush along the Kern River between Manor Street and Highway 99 kept city and county firefighters and law enforcement crews scrambling Thursday afternoon.

The first fire started at around 2 p.m. in brush along the Kern River near the city’s San Miguel Commemorative Grove at Manor Street and Denise Avenue, said Kern County Fire Department spokesman Corey Wilford.

The 20-acre blaze, fanned by the gusty winds that whipped through Bakersfield during the day, spread out east and west along the river, engulfed brush on islands in the middle of the dry riverbed and then jumped to the north side of the river.

It rained down burning embers on a complex of horse stables as firefighters rushed to push it back, and volunteers and workers at the stables rushed to move the animals away from the blaze.

Greg Battles said he hurried to the stables, where his wife keeps horses, when he saw the column of smoke from his property on Edison Highway.

As firefighters blasted the core of the blaze with streams of water from the Manor Street bridge, Battles worked under an orange haze of smoke, using a shovel to toss dirt on smoldering piles of ash and manure inside a pen.

At one point the wind curled itself into a tight, black tornado-like formation hundreds of feet high — drawing smoke and burning embers into the air.

Smoke-devils like that, Battle said, were what dumped the burning embers on the stable complex.

“We didn’t need the wind today,” he said.

Wilford agreed and encouraged people to be very cautious with fire hazards in these tough conditions.

“We’re having some erratic behavior. This has been a very challenging fire. It’s been very resource-intensive,” Wilford said.

Around 100 firefighters and their equipment fought the blaze, he said.

Battle said fires have been starting in the area a lot and blamed the blazes on homeless camp set up in the river.

Wilford acknowledged that there was a blaze in that same general location on Saturday. But he said the cause of Thursday’s blazes were still under investigation. He said individuals walking in the area had been stopped by fire investigators from the city and the county for questioning.

But, he said Thursday evening, “No arrest has been made.”

“We don’t even know if it’s arson at this time,” Wilford said.

The second blaze began two miles down the river near Highway 99 about an hour after firefighters launched their attack against the first blaze.

It burned in the river right behind the Bakersfield Heart Hospital, but a canal running between the buildings and the riverbed provided a buffer from the flames, witnesses said.

“It’s very close to the hospital, but fortunately we have the canal,” said Michelle Oxford, vice president of business development.

From her office in a medical building, Oxford said she could feel the heat and see a helicopter collecting water from the canal to douse the flames. She said she notice the fire at about 2:45 p.m.

It started right behind the Emergency Room Department and spread down the riverbed toward Highway 99, she said.

“The smoke is the worst part,”Oxford said.

Though the flames were close, the hospital did not have to evacuate patients, she said.

“We’re safe and it looks like it’s pretty much contained right now,” she said at about 4:30 p.m.