Local News

Thursday, Sep 08 2011 08:38 PM

Number of homes destroyed in Canyon Fire more than doubles

by jason kotowski Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The damage from the Canyon Fire turned out to be far worse than first believed.

Updated figures Thursday evening revealed 32 residences have been destroyed, more than doubling the previous estimate of 12, according to the Kern County Fire Department. In addition, 30 outbuildings, 19 vehicles and 12 recreational vehicles were lost to the blaze.

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Red Cross help

The American Red Cross Kern Chapter Service Center set up for the Canyon Fire was set to close Thursday.

Anyone who has suffered a loss due to the Canyon Fire is asked to call the Kern Chapter as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with a caseworker.

The number is 661-324-6427, or 1-800-951-5600 after hours.

-- American Red Cross Kern Chapter

Kern County Fire spokesman Victor Cruz said a damage assessment team went into burned areas to get an accurate count of buildings and vehicles destroyed after the danger posed by the fire decreased.

"Until it's safe to let them in, it's difficult to get a very accurate number," he said.

The fire was 91 percent contained as of 7 p.m. Thursday, having burned 14,802 acres since it began Sunday in Old West Ranch near Tehachapi. More than 1,400 personnel from various agencies remained at the scene.

Fire activity was listed as minimal, and remaining crews will continue to construct control lines, perform mop-up operations and patrol the fire perimeter, the Cal Fire website said. Firefighting resources are gradually being sent from the area as the operation winds down.

Cruz said full containment is expected Friday. All evacuations and road closures have been lifted.

Residents returning home are asked to thoroughly inspect their property and look for hazards such as gas leaks, burned trees and power lines.

Merle Carnes, president of the Old West Property Owners Association, was among those who lost their homes to the fire. She said residents are still in shock and the rebuilding probably won't start for a couple of weeks while people cope with what's happened.

Everyone who lost their home has been taken in by neighbors or relatives, Carnes said.

"Our community really reaches out and helps each other," she said.

The two men killed in the plane crash Sunday that sparked the blaze have been identified as Walter Johnson, 72, of Pomona, and John Nuckolls, 55, of Claremont. The National Traffic Safety Board's investigation into the crash could take six months to a year.

The plane reportedly flew over the home of a friend of one of the men in Tehachapi before crashing.

This fire has destroyed more homes than the West Fire, which hit the same area in July 2010. That blaze destroyed 23 homes and 41 outbuildings, damaged another six homes and eight outbuildings, and burned 1,658 acres.

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