Special Sections : Canyon Fire

Monday, Sep 05 2011 09:20 AM

UPDATE: Canyon Fire grows to 12,100 acres

Related Photos

Windmills are silhouetted in the glow of the Canyon Fire Sunday night, Sept. 4. The fire continues to grow with CalFire set to take over management mid-day Monday, Sept. 5. Photo by Nick Smirnoff

A fire camp grew up overnight near the old Monroe School at Monolith, east of the City of Tehachapi. Supplies, a fire kitchen, and equipment are assembled to provide support for firefighters. Photo by Nick Smirnoff

With fire engines coming in from all over the state, the Love's Travel Center and other facilities in Tehachapi were busy Sunday night as the Canyon Fire continued to burn out of control. Photo by Nick Smirnoff

UPDATE to story: The Canyon Fire grows to 12,100 acres.

The Canyon Fire, set off by a plane crash on Sunday, Sept. 4, grew to an estimated 5,700 acres by 8 a.m. Monday, Sept. 5.

Eyewitnesses reported extreme fire behavior on Sunday afternoon, virtually a fire tornado.
"I've heard of them, but I'd never seen one," said Jeannine Giuffre, president of the Greater Tehachapi Area Fire Safe Council and a resident of Old West Ranch, where the fire started.  She said the fire roared as it whipped around, with flame lengths between 200 and 300 feet high — and entire trees ripped out of the grown and thrown into the whirling fire. A neighbor reported seeing the roof of a trailer flying through the fiery sky.  Giuffre and her neighbors, the fire is a repeat of the West Fire of 2010. That fire burned 1,658 acres and destroyed 23 homes and additional outbuildings.

In a briefing Monday morning, Kern County Fire Dept. spokesman Sean Collins said firefighters only know of one structure lost so far in the Canyon Fire — but there are areas they can't yet reach, including the site of the plane crash, so the toll may be higher.

KCFD continues to manage the fire, but sometime Monday command will be turned over to CalFire. KCFD's contract with the state agency calls for it to handle initial attack with the state taking over when wildland fires require additional resources.

Resources were pouring in to Tehachapi on Sunday and more are expected to arrive today.
Cary Wright of KCFD said at the morning briefing that seven  helicopters, six air attack planes and a DC10 bomber are expected today, along with additional hand crews and engine companies.

With temperatures Monday expected to be in the high 80s with winds from 10-15 miles per hour, gusting to 80 miles per hour, firefighters were preparing for another day of intense fire activity, Wright said.
At a fire camp set up at the former Monroe School site near Monolith, a small tent city grew up over night with an inmate crew from Camp Prado in Southern California running a fire kitchen and supplies and equipment in place to support the firefighting effort.

Wright said most of Monday's effort would be to get a line in place between the fire and inhabited area, as well as to protect windfarms. That may mean that the fire will continue to grow toward the back country.
Mountain Park was evacuated Sunday and an evacuation order remains in place for all residences within the boundaries south of Highline, west of Willow Springs, east of Water Canyon and north of Oak Creek need to evacuate. In addition to using its ReadyKern system to inform residents, the Kern County Sheriff's Office made personal contact with residents in the area.

Under California law, residents do not have to evacuate, but are advised that they should and that officials may not make further contact, a Sheriff's Office spokesman said. Some residents left the area while others have stayed on their property.

To reach the Kern County Sheriff's office call 661-861-3110 (if an emergency, call 911).
The Red Cross has a shelter set up at Jacobsen Middle School, 711 Anita (enter off Snyder near the swimming pool.) Most of the activity has been from townspeople stopping by to offer help. Kern County Animal Control has set up at the shelter at the same location to assist with animal needs.
Two Southern California men are believed to have died in the plane crash, but officials have not released further details.

The Tehachapi News will provide an updated story around noon Monday and is also posting information on the Tehachapi News facebook page.

Send news tips to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.

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