Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called on residents to obey any evacuation requests after emergency officials briefed the governor on the Old West Ranch and Riverkern fires Wednesday, July 28, at Tehachapi High School.
As of Thursday, the Old West Ranch fire, known to fire officials as the "West Fire," had burned 1,436 acres and was 25 percent contained.
Between 30 and 40 structures were destroyed in the fire, according to the Kern County Fire Department and CalFire officials. An additional 150 structures remain threatened by the blaze.
Earlier in the day, the governor appeared at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley to sign legislation enacting Ronald Reagan Day for Feb. 6.
Instead of flying directly to Sacramento to continue work on the state's budget, the governor said he wanted to stop in Tehachapi to meet with local and state emergency officials regarding the "West fire" and the "Bull Fire," which is located near Kernville.
Schwarzenegger landed at the Mojave Air and Spaceport and was driven to Tehachapi High School just before 1:30 p.m.
He met with emergency officials and city and county representatives in room No. 806 before addressing media members outside the high school's gym.
The governor said he has always enjoyed coming to Kern County "especially for reasons like this."
"It means I get to help," he said.
Schwarzenegger said he could put off discussing budget issues because wildfires were the state's "No. 1 concern right now."
“We’ve been lucky so far this summer,” Schwarzenegger said. “But the season is here as you can see.”
When asked whether there would be enough money to quell more fires throughout the current fire season, the governor was positive.
"We always make sure we have enough money to fight these fires," he said.
Assemblywoman Jean Fuller said emergency officials could count on the state for support.
"Anything that you need, we'll deliver," she said.
The governor asked residents to thank local and state emergency officials and law enforcement for their efforts.
He also reminded residents to clear defensible space around their properties to prevent damage from fires.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said, "The true heroes are the firemen."
Public turned away
Not everyone had a chance to catch a glimpse of the governor during his brief visit.
Resident Gerald Gardner said roughly 60 people hoping to see the governor were not allowed entrance to the command post area, located in the high school's parking lot.
Gardner said he was never told whether the governor's appearance was public or private.
Tehachapi Police Department officers told the group they could "watch (the governor) drive by from the sidewalk," Gardner said.
Gardner said the group was unable to see Schwarzenegger.
Police Chief Jeff Kermode said the command post is not open to the public.
The purpose of the governor's visit was to meet with local officials and address the media, Kermode said.
"It was not targeted to be a public appearance," he said.
A news alert sent out by the Tehachapi News did not state whether the governor's appearance would be open to the public.
Gardner said those who were turned away just wanted to hear the governor speak.
"It was a big media show," he said.