Kern Photos Tuesday December 15, 2015

A tractor operator keeps control of a controlled burn east of Bakersfield in 2015 in this file photo. 

While blame has been placed on California's forest management as potentially being a primary factor in many of this year's historic wildfires, Kern County could be reaping the benefits of preemptive measures taken by local, state and federal fire agencies in the winter and spring.

At least so far.

On Monday while visiting Sacramento, President Donald Trump blamed the state’s leaders for “failing” to rake leaves and clear dead timber from forest floors, according to the Associated Press. It wasn't the President’s first time citing poor forest management as playing a role in the fires that have been raging across the state.

“When you have years of leaves, dried leaves on the ground, it just sets it up,” Trump said. “It’s really a fuel for a fire. So they have to do something about it.”

Christine McMorrow, public information officer for CalFire, said that any claims of poor forest management would “discount” the work her agency’s team does year-round throughout the state.

“We’re always doing some sort of fire reduction activities. Something is always happening,” she said.

CalFire contracts with Kern County and regularly provides funds for annual “fuels treatment” programs, McMorrow said. She said that prescribed burns are typically facilitated from throughout November to early June.

She explained that in 2017, CalFire recognized more needed to be done in terms of “thinning” brush and timber throughout many of the state’s forests. Since then, she said her agency has “ramped up” it’s thinning efforts and will continue doing so.

“There’s a lot of factors (for this year’s wildfires), it’s not just one thing,” McMorrow said. “(Brush and timber buildup) didn’t just happen in the last five years. That’s decades of a certain kind of attitude towards prescribed burns.”

She said that residents in certain parts of the state had previously been resistant to controlled burns.

Even so, locally, the Kern County Fire Department undertook efforts throughout the recent winter and spring months in order to “create a safer environment for our communities,” according to Andrew Freeborn, KCFD public information officer. Their hundreds of management projects included controlled burns, clearing brush, timber and other fuels throughout the county.

“We work with various crews and seasonal employees throughout winter and spring months,” Freeborn said. “It’s typically the work most people don’t see going on.”

He explained that most of the work is done around more populated areas throughout the mountains such as Alta Sierra, Tehachapi, Pine Mountain Club, Frazier Park and Lebec. KCFD also concentrated on a stretch of State Route 223 for controlled burns, as it's a common area for brush fires to occur, Freeborn said.

“We’ve seen historically that the section of road on (State Route 223) gets brush and dry grasses on the side of the road and there are a lot of vehicle fires that happen there,” Freeborn said.

These are done to prevent fires from becoming established, moving onto the base of the mountain, and impacting the community of Bear Valley Springs or going into the Hart Flat area, Freeborn said.

Gabe Garcia, Bakersfield field manager for the Bureau of Land Management, said his agency focused this past winter on clearing brush and having controlled burns in areas outside of Kernville. He said about 50 acres were cleared during this recent project.

“We’ve made a nice fire break between BLM lands and the community,” Garcia said. “We typically do certain areas annually we think are prone to fire.”

He described Kern County as being “lucky” so far when compared to wildfires throughout the rest of the state. With that, he emphasized residents need to stay “vigilant” in continuing to avoid fire risks.

“(BLM has) implemented an open flame ban so there are no campfires of any sort in our campgrounds or lands to mitigate the continued fire risk,” Garcia said. “Typically we don’t do a full ban, but we decided to call a total ban on all flames. (The ban) would last until November or December because there’s not a lot of rain in the forecast for this fall.”

There's always risk, particularly in recent months when record wildfires have swept across California. The only significant one that took place in Kern County this summer was the Stagecoach Fire in the Lake Isabella area, which occurred in early August.

Freeborn said that every month in the state is wildfire season, and KCFD is prepared to battle those blazes year-round. He said that the community can support KCFD and prevent wildfires by staying educated on what’s happening both locally and statewide.

“Educate yourselves on what you’re seeing in other cities and other counties for a long-term perspective,” Freeborn said. “If you want changes or additional services, those requests have to be made.”

In the short term, Freeborn said efforts as simple as maintaining “defensible spaces” around property, keeping up on car maintenance, not dragging chains from vehicles and avoiding hitting rocks while mowing the lawn can be integral in preventing unnecessary fires.

“It’s the small things that make such a big difference,” Freeborn said.

Recommended for you

(12) comments

Masked 2020

don't include that photo in the BakersfieldisGreat and not a ArmPitof theState Rebranded 2020 brochure...we really R are a land of pristine springs and virgin atmospheres ...O2 and H20...... don't belive you lyingN eyes andtastebuds.... A tractor operator keeps control of a controlled burn east of Bakersfield in 2015 in this file photo.

Masked 2020

Bulldog....don't B shy.....these Q-Gen....soon 2 B geriatric... AKA --- Bako Patch- RabittHolers can B exhausting.... they just cant admit they have been barking up the wrong tree all this time....Truth Exited Pennsylvania Avenue back N 2016....BullBog....Shine a bright light and lead us out of this....Covid Nightmare....just not a Tiki-Torch


I believe we should all make signs with "I am your wife" written on them and have a peaceful protest at the State Capital. This story is one of the most heartbreaking I have ever heard, and the result of Zero forest maintenance. I know it happened in Oregon, but it could have just as well happened here. It's time to we were heard!

Darwin's Bulldog

The primary driving factor behind this year’s fires is climate change. As a reporter, Quinn should have included this fact in his article. With rising temperatures, Our forests and scrublands are drier and easier to burn. Because of climate change, areas that previously supported forests will shift to shrub communities. Recurring fires will convert scrublands to grasslands, as is happening in coastal southern California. Forest management can only do so much. The SQF fire just blew through Mountain Home State Forest, despite it being an example of high-intensity, science-based forest management. Longer and more intense fire seasons are happening all over the world, including in Siberia. “Facts don’t cease to exist because they are ignored”. Welcome to the future.


Dude, enough with the fake news. As even Gov Newsome admitted, there has been decades of bad forest management in California. That's why the fires are so bad - there's so much dead fuel laying around. If climate change is causing forest fires, why isn't the rest of the world on fire? This is man-made.

Darwin's Bulldog

Well, actually Frank, the rest of the world is experiencing record fires and temperatures. Notable examples in the last few years, besides the western USA, include Canada, Russia, Indonesia, Australia, Chile, the Amazon, and Kansas, to name a few. You can state your opinion that it is fake news, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation we are in. And you are right, it is man-made. Our production of CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gasses is having huge impacts on the world; primarily by raising average atmospheric temperatures and the warming and acidification of the oceans. The consequences of which can be seen in everything from disrupted weather patterns, slower, wetter hurricanes, earlier blooming times for flowers, increased severity of droughts, and, yes, increased severity of wildfires. It’s science. The same science that got us to the moon, cured polio, allows us to forecast the weather, and increased our understanding of the human body so that fewer babies and mothers die at childbirth.


Changing realities in weather patterns and elsewhere demand changes in how we deal with them. Everyone wants clean air but in the meantime we need to increase our water storage capacities rather than tear down existing dams that also provide hydro power, and we need to put more resources into cleaning up and reducing the voluminous amounts of fuel in our forested lands, state, federal and privately owned.


I am interested to see what sources you give to support your assertion DB that global warming is the primary factor behind this year’s fires in the western US?


"...California's forest management IS a primary factor in many of this year's historic wildfires..." Fixed it for you Quinn.


dump, being the idiot that he is, should shut up! CA only has jurisdiction over about 3-4% of the forests. MOST are fed parks/forests/etc! It is THE feds' responsibilities to maintain them! They have FAILED to maintain the public lands that all of us OWN! It is US who own these fab forests, but the fed gov under R "administrations, have FAILED us!!!!! The sooner they are OUT, the better IMHO!


The diversion of funds from the forest service actually started under the Obama Administration. Granted, Trump has done nothing to help, but the state of the forests in the USA fall on Mr. No Drama....

Masked 2020

Trump and Kevin's America,,,,,,,,CALIFORNIA Published June 24, 2019 California Carmax lot goes up in flames, dozens of vehicles damaged, destroyed Rows of used cars went up in flames Monday as a fire ravaged a CarMax lot in Bakersfield, Calif., damaging or destroying 86 vehicles. The Bakersfield Fire Department said its units responded to a report of multiple brush fires along Highway 99 in South Bakersfield. The Bakersfield Californian newspaper, citing the fire department, reported that 26 vehicles on the lot were completely destroyed while 60 more were damaged. No injuries were reported but CarMax is expected to suffer a loss of $2.1 million as a result of damage to the cars, the Californian reported.The cause of the fire was under investigation, but officials said the blaze may have been sparked by a semi-truck dragging an object that sparked against the road. Investigators believe the sparks ignited nearby grass and spread to the lot. The Bakersfield Fire Department reported that 20 acres of brush and grass were burned by the fires. Click for more from the Bakersfield Californian.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.