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Tuesday, Feb 11 2014 05:39 PM

Kern County Fire Department addresses fire season early due to drought

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Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall speaks during a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 11 on how the drought is affecting how the County responds to fire season this year. Scott Camp / Tehachapi News

The Kern County Fire Department is gearing up for the fire season earlier than usual and gathering additional resources as drought conditions persist throughout California, Fire Chief Brian Marshall said at a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

"Normally we're out there around the middle of May with our federal and state partners announcing the start of fire season,” Marshall said.

Marshall said with the fire season never really ended last year and has continued throughout the winter months into 2014.

“We have been in severe drought conditions which have led up to the potential for large-scale wildland fires occurring during the winter months,” Marshall said. According to the Chief, 300 wild land fires were reported to CalFire in January of this year, compared to zero in last year's reporting period.

Consequently, the fire department has requested an additional 15 seasonal fire fighters from the county.

“Our wildland fires dispatch system is active right now,” Marshall said.

If someone were to call for assistance, Marshall said, fire engines, bulldozers, air crafts and hand crews would respond just as they would in the middle of summer.

Members of the fire department are encouraging residents to be especially vigilant in reducing the risk of fire by using power equipment earlier in the day when temperatures are cooler and there is more moisture in the air.

Tehachapi has had the most serious fires in the last couple of years, Public Information Officer Sean Collins said, citing the West Fire and Canyon Fire that occurred in 2010 and 2011.

“All of those mountainous areas from the lake through Tehachapi over to Frazier Park,” contain a lot of timber and thus have a higher risk of wildfire, Collins said.

Tehachapi has also had to deal with problems involving Pine Bark beetle infestations, which have created additional hazards on top of the dry conditions, Collins said.

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