Local News

Thursday, May 16 2013 05:45 PM

'Grand' fire burning three miles southeast of Frazier Park

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    A Cal Fire truck drives down Falcon Way in Lebec after leaving Frazier Mountain High School as the Grand Fire burns in the mountains behind.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    A Ventura County Sheriff Fire Support helicopter flies toward the Grand Fire near Lebec.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Smoke from the Grand Fire rises in the area of the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreational Area.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Near Frazier Mountain High School, Kern County Fire Department Public Information Officers Corey Wilford, right, and Ken Scott, in truck, get updates on the Grand Fire burning in the mountains behind them.

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  5. 5 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    At night fall, smoke reflecting light from the fire near Frazier Mountain Park Road and I-5, flows over the mountains and is recorded in a 2 second time exposure.

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  6. 6 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    At nightfall smoke reflects light from the fire burning near Frazier Mountain Park Road and Interstate 5 Wednesday night.

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  7. 7 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A helicopter makes a drop as night begins to fall on a fire near Frazier Mountain Park Road and Interstate 5 Wednesday evening. Hot spots begin to show as darkness comes.

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  8. 8 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A helicopter makes a stop to refuel and quickly takes off again as night begins to fall on a fire near Frazier Mountain Park Road and Interstate 5 Wednesday evening.

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  9. 9 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Frazier Mountain High School student Kelly Davis says students were told to evacuate the school about 1 p.m. Wednesday as a fire in the area started burning toward the high school. She and her friend Michael Normas, a former student at the school, returned to the road that leads to the high school to witness firefighting efforts.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A U.S. Forrest Service crew prepare to do their job on a fire burning near Frazier Mountain Park Road and Interstate 5 Wednesday afternoon.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Smoke billows into the sky as U.S. Forest service firefighter keeps an eye on the progress of a fire burning off of Frazier Mountain Park Road in this May 15, 2013 file photo.

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  12. 12 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A helicopter makes a drop on a fire off of Frazier Mountain Park Road Wednesday as a ground crew member, right, also battle the blaze that burned through the area.

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  13. 13 of 14

    By enry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A helicopter makes a drop on a fire off of Frazier Mountain Park Road Wednesday afternoon as a fire raced through the area.

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  14. 14 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Flames can be seen near the Frazier Mountain High School football field Wednesday afternoon as a fire raced through the area.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

FRAZIER PARK -- Huge clouds of smoke still hovered southeast of Frazier Park Thursday, but the now 4,100-acre fire appears to have changed course and moved away from the mountain town.

Containment Friday morning was at 35 percent.

Kern County Fire spokesman Corey Wilford said Thursday afternoon that there were no issues along the fire's exterior, but some interior spots were burning.

Nearly 1,500 firefighters from different agencies were called in to battle the fire. The cause is under investigation and no injuries have been reported.

Local residents said they were remaining cautious but weren't panicking now that the fire no longer poses an immediate threat. The fire was reported at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday.

Allen Eschenbach, 35, said he wasn't planning to evacuate because the region has seen worse, closer fires over the years.

"We're not really worried about it because (news reports) said winds were blowing it south toward LA," Eschenbach said.

Julie Hartman said late Thursday morning that she remained concerned. Thick white smoke billowed from the top of a mountainside visible from her home.

"If that side of the mountain goes up then Frazier Park goes up," she said.

Hartman said she instructed family members on what to pack if they received an evacuation warning. The family owns four dogs and would take along plenty of dog food, medicine and clothing.

She said her family has lived in Frazier Park for 14 years and has never had a close call, but once during a rapidly spreading wildfire in Castaic a California Highway Patrol officer drove her and her then 13-year-old daughter away from the blaze. She said people shouldn't try to wait out a blaze and take unnecessary chances if authorities warn it's getting close.

"Nothing is worth your life," Hartman said.

Heidi Modugno said she was just keeping an eye on reports and hadn't made plans to leave her home on Decator Trail. She's lived in Frazier Park more than 20 years and she and her family have a Chevy Tahoe parked in their driveway as an emergency vehicle.

The back of the Tahoe is empty so the Modugno family will be able to store tubs containing their 11 snakes. They also own four cats and a dog.

Last summer's fire just north of town was the worst JoAnn Souther has seen in the six years she's lived here. She said she and her family were ready to leave if necessary.

The Grand fire didn't have her that concerned, but she said the area is exceptionally dry right now.

"When it was by the high school that's when it concerned me," Souther said.

Frazier Mountain High School was evacuated Wednesday. Mandatory evacuations were in effect for Hungry Valley State Park and Piru Creek Campground.

Kate Donahue said if the winds "got crazy" it would be possible the fire could turn back around, but she wasn't worried. She said the firefighters appeared to have a lot of air support to fight the blaze.

Chatterpillar Toys, Gifts, and Balloons store owner Peter Bogdanoff said the charred spots left by the blaze made quite an impression Wednesday night when he returned home.

"It reminded us of Mordor in 'The Lord of the Rings,'" he said.

A resident of the area since 1999, Bogdanoff doesn't panic about wildfires.

"We expect it to happen from time to time," he said.

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