BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Three weeks after the Kern County Fire Department opened a fire suppression camp in Tehachapi, it's already proved useful.
The first responders to the 1,400-acre Sand Fire were the two hand crews and the superintendent based at the camp.
"We're glad to see the personnel's quick response," Kern County Fire Department Capt. Derek Tisinger said. "That's exactly why we bought it."
The new camp opened July 1 in the former Monroe High School facility on Eumatilla Street, which had been vacant for a year. In the beginning of the year, the fire department bought the space for $500,000 using state funds. The camp will be staffed year-round, although there will be fewer firefighters when it's not fire season.
Tisinger called the camp a "work in progress." Before the hand crews moved in, parts of the facility needed to be painted and some electrical work done, as well as other modifications to the facility to customize it to firefighters' needs.
The department also hopes to expand the use of the camp in the future, Tisinger said. That may include a repair shop so broken equipment from stations in the area does not have to go to Bakersfield, and an alternate headquarters for the department in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood.
The use of the camp as a training facility is already certain, said Capt. Derrick Davis, the camp's superintendent. Because the camp is at an old high school, classrooms already exist for training.
Davis said the camp's location close to Highway 58 has been helpful in fighting the Sand Fire and should continue to be helpful in an area prone to wildfires.
"We just hope everyone stays safe," he said. "This area has been ravaged by wildfires in the last couple years."