Local News

Thursday, Jul 29 2010 11:46 AM

Task force investigating cause of Bull Fire

  1. 1 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Forest Service firefighters with the Carson hotshots from New Mexico hike into the Bull Fire to cut line, on the four-day-old fire Thursday, north of Kernville.

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  2. 2 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Bureau of Land Management firefighter Kevin Ehret of Bakersfield, with the Kern Valley Hotshots, loads up on water before hiking in three miles with his crew to cut fire line on the Bull Fire, Thursday morning near Kernville. They may end up spending a night or two on the fire line.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Adam Sanders, left, U.S. Forest Service fire superintendent with the Breckenridge Hotshots from Havilah, California, heads up the Cannell Trail outside of Kernville on Thursday morning with his crew following. They were hiking in about three miles to cut line on the four-day-old Bull Fire. They would end up on the southeast section of the fire and camp in the wilderness for one to two nights.

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  4. 4 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Joe and Cindy Knight of Las Vegas thank the firefighters in Riverkern on Thursday with this sign they put up along the highway for doing a good job on the Bull Fire. Joe Knight's mother, Sandra Knight's home was spared by the fire in Riverkern when it roared through town Monday afternoon, burning several homes in the fire's path.

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  5. 5 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    A Riverkern resident thanks the fire crews for the work they have been doing all week on the four-day-old Bull Fire on Thursday, with this small sign tacked to the tree in their front yard.

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  6. 6 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    A sawyer with the U.S. Forest Service Breckenridge Hotshots, Nathan Zimmerman, of Kernville, hikes up the Cannell Trail several miles with his crew to cut fire line on the Bull Fire, Thursday.

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  7. 7 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Dustin West, of Nevada, gets ready for firefighters and support crews to purchase Bull Fire T-shirts, that he makes and sells across the street from the main Bull Fire camp at a school in Lake Isabella, California. This is close to 20 miles from the fire itself, which is north of Kernville and started Monday.

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  8. 8 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    A Cal Fire strike team passes through a burned out section of Riverkern, Thursday, during the fourth day of the Bull Fire, north of Kernville in the Sequoia National Forest. Several structures were lost in the fire Monday. The open sign, left, is on the Riverkern store and is now open for business.

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  9. 9 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Bureau of Land Management firefighters, with the Kern Valley Hotshots of Bakersfield, hike up the Cannell Trail, Thursday, several miles on the rim of the Bull Fire to cut line.

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  10. 10 of 10

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Robin Little thanks firefighters for their hard work on the Bull Fire over the past week during a community meeting held to provide an update for residents in Lake Isabella.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI and JEFF GOODMAN, Californian staff writers jkotowski@bakersfield.com, jgoodman@bakersfield.com

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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