As the Labor Day weekend began, 10 fires were consuming California's forests, including the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, which has scorched an area larger than the land mass of Chicago.
The massive blaze, has forced hundreds of people to evacuate as flames have scorched more than 187,000 acres by the deadline for this week's paper (early because of the holiday).
Sparked two weeks ago, the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest has grown to epic proportions, fueled by a huge expanse of forest that has been hit by harsh drought over the past two years.
And the forests and woodlands of Tehachapi have been hit just as hard.
According to Jeannine Guiffre, president of the Greater Tehachapi Fire Safe Council, parts of Old West Ranch, Water Canyon, Tejon View and Five Points are all areas that are suffering from the lack of sufficient water needed to support healthy tree growth.
In Alpine Forest, Guiffre said the water is just not enough to support the amount of trees and they are dying, becoming the perfect fuel source for fire.
The lack of water has also created the perfect environment for Pine Bark Beetles, which further disrupt already-stressed trees, eventually killing them.
Another area of concern, is Bear Mountain Ranch on top of Bear Mountain just north of Bear Valley Springs.
According to Registered Professional Forester Jeff Gletne, the 5,000 acre-ranch has not been logged for nearly 8o years.
"The trees have gotten too big, they've started dying and have fallen down," he said." It's created a heck of a fuel source and its really bad."
In an effort to reduce the possibility of fire, Chuck Able the ranch's owner, has hired Gletne to come up with a fuel reduction plan, which includes a comprehensive timber harvest plan -- a document equivalent to an environmental impact report -- which would allow the removal of dead, dying, or diseased trees, as well as thinning on the ranch to reduce the risk of fire and to improve overall forest health.
The THP analyzes all aspects of the affected environment, including fire, wildlife, soils, water quality, archaeological features, aesthetics, traffic, cumulative impacts, and rare, threatened, or endangered species.
The project, if approved by the State of California in mid-September, would begin in the fall of 2013, and provide roughly 1,250 acres of Geoffrey Pine and White Fir clean up.
The logger that will do the work, according to Gletne, will be the same who did the job at Tehachapi Mountain Park several years ago.
"It's a nightmare try to think that the property could be lost due to fire," Able said. "This is something we've been needing to do for a long period of time. It's important to manage our forest."
More preventive measures
Guiffre said that during the past eight years since the GTFSC as started, it has received approximately $900,000 in grant money, which has been used to brush roads -- removing fuels next to roadways to create safer escape routes and better access for fire personnel -- constructing a system of shaded fuel breaks and public education.
"Raising awareness about the rise in fuel and what exactly needs to be done is important," Guiffre said. "We have to be selective, because we can't take care of the thousands of acres of dead trees all at once. It's just unrealistic. But we can remove fuel sources that are closer to areas of population."
Currently the council is working with the Kern County Fire Dept. on planning a community escape route for Tehachapi, as well performing more road brushing and applying for additional grants for 2014.
Kern's firefighters assist others
In all, more than 50 fires were burning in 10 states across the western USA last week, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
And for the first time in five years the center raised the national wildfire preparedness level to its highest tier of "5."
So far, in Kern County things have been quiet, allowing the county to help other areas in need of additional resources.
According to Kern County Fire Public Information Officer Corey Wilford, as of last week the department had 63 people deployed outside of the county, assisting to fight the fires around the state.
Meanwhile, Wilford said that the department is keeping a close watch on its own backyard.
"We are focusing on what we call the 100 and 1000 hour fuels, which are your large stands of thick brush and timber, " he said. "As the year progresses past summer, these fuels have had additional time to 'dry out' or 'cure,' creating dryer fuels every day."