The main mission of the Fire Program of the Bakersfield Field Office is to protect life, property and natural resources (in that order) from wildland fire. Our office has primary responsibility for protecting 1.5 million acres of land from wildfire. This includes 250,000 acres of State and privately owned land, as well as public lands managed by the BLM.
Our Fire staff consists of 35 full-time employees. During fire season, our work force rises to about 80 people, including a Hot Shot Firefighting Crew and engine crews. (We accept job applications for seasonal firefighter jobs in December, long before fire season starts.) Besides our fire staff, other employees of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) support the fire program in many ways, from providing necessary administrative support to firefighting.
The Bakersfield Field Office works cooperatively with many other federal, state and county agencies and fire departments. Besides providing immediate assistance on fires in Kern County, BLM firefighters and equipment are dispatched throughout the United States, wherever and whenever assistance is needed to fight wildland fires.
The Bakersfield Field Office operates 8 BLM fire stations from mid-April through the end of October each year. (Most wildfires occur during July and August, when lightning activity and use of the public lands are highest.) Our fire stations are at Chimney Peak, South Fork, Midway, Kernville, and Bakersfield. The station Kernville is are operated jointly by both the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
The Bakersfield BLM "Metro" fire station, located at the Bakersfield Field Office, includes the shop building and fire warehouse (where other firefighting equipment and supplies are kept). Our fire dozer is kept at the US Forest Service Kernville fire station. During fires, our Interagency Dispatch Center in Porterville is open around the clock to provide aerial and ground firefighting support.
Uncontrolled fires can be destructive, however wildland fires are also a fundamental part of natural ecosystems. Without fire, the health of some vegetative types would be jeopardized. For this reason, occasional "prescribed burns" are carefully planned and conducted by BLM fire specialists to benefit specific areas. Prescribed fires can improve habitat for wildlife and domestic livestock, help trees and other vegetation regenerate, and prevent the accumulation of excess vegetation that may fuel wildland fires.
Two-thirds of the fires on the public lands are caused by people. To help prevent fires, the Bakersfield BLM has an active outreach program to teach people about the hazards of wildland fires. We join with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to present various fire prevention messages, including the Smokey Bear program.