Firefighters from Kern County are doing their part to help with the fires raging across Southern California.
The Kern County Fire Department said on its Facebook page that it has deployed 59 firefighters, five engines, two fire bulldozers and other equipment to the Ventura area to battle the Thomas Fire. The Bakersfield Fire Department has dispatched an additional 19 firefighters and six fire engines to assist in the effort.
“We’re proud that they’re there, helping the community,” said Bakersfield Deputy Fire Chief Tyler Hartley. “It is a very chaotic and very dangerous fire with the winds they’re dealing with right now. We’re wishing them a safe deployment. They’re well-trained and well-equipped, so we’re confident they will perform well.”
Current conditions back in Kern County suggest they might not want to stray too far from home. The National Weather Service, based in Hanford, announced a red-flag warning — suggesting that conditions for fast-moving wildfire are high — for the mountain areas of Kern County until 4 p.m. on Friday.
A handful of firefighters have been sent to help with the Creek Fire near the Sylmar area, Kern County Fire Public Information Officer Nate Perkins said.
“About 15 percent of our forces are helping with the fires,” he said.
While saving human lives and structures when possible are the priority, local firefighters are also taking the opportunity to help people’s pets when they get the chance.
A video posted Thursday on Twitter showed local firefighters reviving a dog that had suffered smoke inhalation in a house fire. The video is posted on The Bakersfield Californian's Twitter feed, twitter.com/Bakersfieldcali.
Several Ventura-area residents expressed their gratitude on Facebook to local firefighters for their efforts with the fire.
“As I am out shopping, I see numerous firefighters from all over Bakersfield, Fresno, etc., out shopping at Walmart and other stores during their down time,” said Mike Limon. “It is great seeing all these guys providing support to our own Ventura County Fire Department.”
Southern California resident Vera Chacon Dominguez thanked firefighters on Thursday, including some from Bakersfield, for helping to protect her ranch from the fire.
“How do you say ‘thank you’ to people who put their lives on line to protect us [and] our property? And we are strangers to them,” she said in a post on Facebook.
The Bakersfield Fire Department said about 1,776 firefighters from across the state are helping to stop the fire, which has affected about 96,000 acres of land and destroyed more than 150 structures.
Cal Fire said 15,000 structures were threatened and 88,000 people have been evacuated as of Dec. 7. The fire was only 5 percent contained as of Thursday.
Perkins and Hartley said typical deployments last around two weeks, with the possibility of it being shortened or extended as needed. The goal is to get the firefighters back home in time for the holidays.
While local firefighters’ focus might be on Ventura County right now, fire danger is getting close to home as well.
The National Weather Service said the Kern County mountain areas are in danger of fire due to strong winds and low humidity, which could cause a fire to spread rapidly. As of Thursday, the warning hadn’t been expanded to include the weekend.
“While the dry air-mass will continue into the weekend, better humidity recovery and lighter winds will lower the fire danger potential,” the Weather Service said.
Outdoor burning is not recommended during the warning period as a safety precaution.