Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked President Obama for a federal disaster declaration because of the deadly Erskine Fire, which began June 23 and burned 290 homes and 75 square miles in eastern Kern County over the next 18 days.
A presidential declaration could clear the way for additional assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and set the stage for possible low-interest loans for property owners who lost homes or businesses in the historic wildfire.
The Erskine Fire, which claimed the lives of two residents, is considered Kern’s most damaging wildfire and is ranked the 15th of 20 most damaging California fires in state history, according to Cal Fire.
Driven by 40-mile-per-hour winds, it burned with alarming speed through South Lake, Squirrel Mountain Valley and Mountain Mesa, communities southeast of Isabella Lake, burning more than 48,000 acres until it was fully contained last Monday.
The County of Kern is still compiling an exact record of damage but its estimate of destroyed homes is 283, slightly lower than the state’s number, according to Greg Fenton, the county's director of building and development.
South Lake was the hardest-hit community, and saw around 220 homes burned, Fenton said. About 45 homes burned in Squirrel Mountain Valley. East of South Lake on South Kelso Valley Road, another half-dozen homes burned, and in Mountain Mesa one house was lost.