An interagency task force is investigating the cause of the fire north of Kernville that was 20 percent contained after burning 16,074 acres as of Thursday evening.

Officials from the Kern County Fire Department, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are following up on several citizen reports regarding the source of the Bull Fire, said incident manager Rocky Obliger.

The point of origin has been sealed off from even firefighters so as not to disturb evidence, Obliger said at a community meeting Thursday evening in Lake Isabella.

Obliger said it would likely be seven to 10 days before the fire is fully contained. Hand crews were working in difficult, steep terrain putting out hot spots.

Comments were mostly positive at the meeting, with several rounds of applause from the crowd on behalf of firefighters’ efforts. Local authorities even gave the crowd a round of applause for the work they’d done in clearing brush and other combustibles. About 60 people attended.

Mike Mazziotti, who made it clear in followup comments that he thought firefighters had done a fantastic job, asked why it took so long to get to the fire. He said he watched it burn for more than an hour before anyone arrived. Mazziotti lost three buildings in the blaze.

Kern County Deputy Fire Chief Michael Miller said resources were deployed to where the fire first started, but then it moved in the other direction and crews had to try to catch up.

The fire was moving very quickly.

“We had our hands full,” Miller said.

Safety was a topic that came up a few times.

Lloyd Smith, president of the Kern River Valley Fire Safe Council, urged motorists to drive cautiously as convoys of fire engines and other equipment move along local roads. He said he didn’t want to see any accidents caused by people trying to speed past engines.

“Folks, you gotta be patient with these trucks going up and down the roads,” Smith said.

The fire, which began Monday, has continued burning grass and brush in the Sequoia National Forest on both sides of the Kern River.

“You can see smoke and a little bit of burning — it’s still actively burning, but it’s not as hot or intense (as it was Tuesday),” said Cindy Thill, public information specialist for the Sequoia National Forest, Thursday morning.

At one point more than 2,300 personnel are fighting the blaze, which has destroyed eight homes and six other structures. The number of personnel has been reduced to 2,060.

No homes were immediately threatened Thursday and no evacuation orders were in effect.

Another meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday in Kernville at Odd Fellows Hall.

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