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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 447 

Bakersfield BLM firefighters battle wildfire in mountain community

A community effort to create "defensible space" around structures helped firefighters to minimize damage from a recent southern California wildfire. (text continues below)

Thick white smoke billows from a wooded hillside
A view of the Post Fire in O'Neil Canyon

Firefighters from the BLM’s Bakersfield Field Office helped combat the Post Fire in the nearby mountain community of Lebec. The fire started at approximately 12:30pm on August 24th near Lebec Road and No Name Road.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire spread quickly through the cured grass and oak brush and immediately began to threaten structures in the area.  The Bakersfield BLM and the Kern County Fire Department began a wildland first-alarm, and subsequently a second-alarm response to the area.   The BLM responded to the fire with a Type 3 engine, a water tender, a patrol, a division chief, three battalion chiefs, and a public information officer.

The fire was in a complex environment and boarded on three sides by the Los Padres National Forest. Fire crews quickly established an incident command system, unified between the Kern County Fire Department and federal agencies led by the Bakersfield BLM.

The fire grew rapidly, pushed by strong winds, steep topography, high temperatures, and receptive fuels.  The fire pushed up into O’Neil Canyon and immediately began to threaten the 250 homes of the Los Padres Estates.  BLM suppression resources were faced with the task of providing structure protection for the still evacuating neighborhood.  BLM Water Tender 3191 provided a crucial water supply resource for the engines in the canyon.  BLM Engine 3134 was absorbed by the Kern County Structure Protection Task Force to safeguard homes as the fire spread throughout the canyon.  BLM crews worked aggressively throughout the next 24 hours to protect life and property and to contain the blaze.

Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for Kern County, for the second time in less than a month after the Bull and West Fires charred more than 17,000 acres and destroyed many homes.  In contrast to those incidents, the Post Fire was stopped after charring only 1,300 acres of oak grasslands and stands of pine.  No houses were damaged or destroyed and no injuries to civilians or firefighters occurred.

The success from the Post Fire can be contributed to both rapid and aggressive firefighting efforts, and the community establishing defensible space around the structures in the area prior to the fire’s start.  Learn how you can create defensible space around your property, to reduce the risk of losing your home - even in severe wildfire.  (The BLM is a partner in the California Fire Alliance, which prepared this information.)

A helicopter drops water on a burning hillside
A helicopter drops water on the Post Fire, to help firefighters protect structures.

 A view of the fire out the cab window of an arriving BLM fire truck
A view of the Post Fire as BLM firefighters arrive on the scene.

The Post Fire grew and threatened structures.  In the end, no structures were destroyed or damaged.

- Michelle Puckett, BLM-California Bakersfield Field Office, 9/7/10

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 447

Last updated: 09-09-2010