Special Sections : Canyon Fire

Sunday, Sep 04 2011 03:49 PM

Death confirmed in airplane crash, fire remains out of control

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The Canyon Fire is burning in dense brush and rugged country with shifting winds, resulting in evacuation of residents of Old West Ranch on Sunday, Sept. 4.

The Kern County Fire Dept. reports that structure protection is in place on Old West Ranch southeast of the City of Tehachapi as firefighters continue to battle a blaze caused when a small plane crashed around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 4.

Emergency personnel block the road at Dennison and Summer, leading into Old West Ranch. Evacuees are being directed to Jacobsen Middle School in the City of Tehachapi.

The Canyon Fire is burning in a rugged area southeast of the City of Tehachapi, an area known as the Old West Ranch.

The crash of a small airplane on Sunday, Sept. 4, touched off a wildfire on the Old West Ranch. The same rural community southeast of the City of Tehachapi suffered the loss of 21 homes during the West Fire in July 2011.

One death related to the crash of a small plane in the mountains southeast of the City of Tehachapi has been confirmed.

The plane crash touched off a wildfire which continues to burn out of control in the rugged area of the Old West Ranch near where the 2010 West Fire burned 1,658 acres and destroyed 23 homes.
Loss of one structure today has been reported on the website www.wildlandfire.com, but is not yet confirmed.

As reported in The Bakersfield Californian, at least one person was killed when a six-seater Cessna 210 went down Sunday morning, Sept. 4.

Commander Joe Pilkington of the Kern County Sheriff's Dept. told the Californian it is uncertain if there might be more victims due to the severity of the crash and the fire.

Fire resources are continuing to arrive on the scene with a heliport set up at nearby Mountain Valley Airport. The gliderport has been shut down since non-emergency aircraft are not allowed in the area. An individual at the airport reported seeing the small plane circling the area before it went down Sunday morning.  Firefighting resources are arriving at the scene including two inmate crews from the state's Mountain Home camp near Springville.

Although a mandatory evacuation is in place, at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday property owners and residents gathered outside the area said some residents were refusing to leave. An evacuation center has been set up at Jacobsen Middle School in the City of Tehachapi.

John Jones, who owns a distinctive copper-roofed home on Old West Ranch, said he has just arrived from Los Angeles. His home escaped damage this year; his main concern was if a flying ember would lodge under the eaves and start the home on fire.
Property owner Bert Bockover watched as a cloud of dark smoke rose up from the fire. His property burned in the last fire.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "I think that's my place. I didn't think there was anything left to burn."
He was worried about his friend George Plesko who he said was refusing to evacuate. He and Plesko have been working together to restore their property. Plesko lost his home in the West Fire. Plesko could not be reached for comment.

Bockover said area residents have worked hard to protect their property, doing required weed abatement.
"This year, it just kept raining and we had to do it over and over," he said. "I think Mother Nature is against us."

Additional details about the plane crash have not been released.

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