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Wednesday, Jun 18 2014 11:04 PM

Next time, we might not be so fortunate

By The Bakersfield Californian

Evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday in the Wofford Heights area after fire crews from Kern County and around the state worked tirelessly to contain the Shirley Fire, which burned more than 2,600 acres and, to date, cost more than $7 million to combat. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Thankfully, there were no deaths, and no serious injuries were reported. A few structures were destroyed or damaged, but approximately 1,000 more that were threatened have been spared. Whew.

We need to remember, however, that in this part of the state, during this time of year and during this historic drought, we might not always be so fortunate. In fact, history shows we haven't been. Kern County is fire country. The good people of Tehachapi, Kernville, Caliente, Frazier Park and other nearby locales can attest to that. A simple gust of wind or unintended fuel source could always turn a smoky headache into a potential disaster.

Though it's almost impossible to plan for every imaginable scenario, residents can prepare -- especially those living in areas prone to wildfires. If you can, create at least 100 feet of defensible space around your homes and property. Clear dead or dried vegetation, including pine needles and leaves from roofs and gutters. Remove excess trash or anything flammable from the perimeter of your home. And, perhaps paramount, always have an emergency plan that includes procedures for evacuating. Your life -- and your family's lives -- are worth more than your stuff.

Kern County might not ever be able to prevent fires completely, but all of us can play a role in remaining diligent.

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