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Hundreds of homes in path of Kern County wildfire

Firefighters continue battling a growing wildfire in Kern County. The Shirley Fire is burning in the Sequoia National Forest near Wofford Heights and Lake Isabella.
Monday, June 16, 2014
Firefighters continue battling a wildfire in Kern County. The Shirley Fire is burning in the Sequoia National Forest near Wofford Heights and Lake Isabella -- which is a popular summer tourist spot in Kern County.

Flames have destroyed three homes and damaged another. Some 1,000 homes are still threatened. The fire has burned more than 2,600 acres and is 75 percent contained, according to Sequoia National Forest officials.

Twenty firefighters from Tulare County are stationed Camp Nine next to Lake Isabella. They spent all of Sunday night protecting dozens of homes near the fire.

Tom Petrus secured some of his equipment and vehicles after he was forced to evacuate his vacation home.

"Smoke and then believe it or not you could hear the roar of the fire, it sounded like a jet engine, and it would burn yellow, orange and then all of a sudden it'd get these big black plumes going," said Petrus.

More than anything firefighters aren't just battling the terrain, but the wind is creating problems too.

"It's kind of like a roller coaster, you think it's calm and then it flares up and you're OK this is the end and then it dies down again, you think OK we got this, and then boom up it goes again," said Petrus.

Tulare County Fire Battalion Chief Jonathon Kutka says a wind advisory is in place for the area until Tuesday at 4 a.m. with gusts up to 45 miles per hour. The high winds make it difficult for crews who think they might already have a handle on this wildfire.

"The wind it can push fire, it can cause hot spots, and it can jump the control lines because of the amount of wind and the velocity of the wind," said Kutka.

Tulare County firefighters spent the night on Pala Drive near the scenic Lake Isabella in Kern County. Right now, people there are still in their homes, not yet ordered to evacuate. Crews are making sure the wind doesn't kick the flames toward the neighborhood.

The fire has already cost more than $4 million, and investigators are still looking for cause.

Above the ground crews are helicopters and planes taking fire retardant and water from Lake Isabella up the mountain to put out the fire. Fire officials hope that if they can get past this high wind event, they should be able to contain more of the fire by Tuesday.

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Incident Overview
Excellent progress was made on Monday. Firefighters made gains on all areas of the fire perimeter to raise the containment to 75 percent. Vegetation was burned to widen lines, hand lines were built and hose lines plumbed around the fire. For the first time since the start of the incident the fire did not burn actively in the afternoon. A wind advisory has been issued for the Kern Valley and will remain in place until Tuesday afternoon. Crews will be cautious of the possibility of blowing embers causing spot fires outside the line as they work to improve containment through the night. Helicopters capable of night operations will remain available to firefighters on the ground tonight in the event the fire escapes the perimeter.

Road Closures
Due to continued firefighting and suppression activities portions of Old State Rd. will be closed to all but local traffic. Residents are asked to exercise caution when driving in the vicinity.

Forest Closures
Portions of the following National Forest roads are closed under Order No. 14-11: Rancheria Rd. (Forest Road No. 25S15) Wagy Flat Rd. (Forest Road No. 25S02), Sawmill Road (Forest Road No. 26S03), Alder Creek Road (Forest Road No. 25S04) Highway 155 is closed at the intersection with Wofford Heights Blvd. Residents, owners, lessees of property are exempt from the closure as long as the closure does not fall within an evacuation area.

Evacuations
All evacuations have been lifted.

Incident at FYI
Last night an air tanker assigned to the incident experienced a nose gear collapse on landing at Fresno Airport. The tanker, a P2V, was damaged. Neither of the 2 crew members were injured.
Meeting
A community meeting was held on Monday, June 16, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. at Faith Community Church, 20 West Panorama Dr. in Wofford Heights. This meeting was hosted by the Sequoia National Forest and the Kern County Fire Department. Representatives from both agencies and Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley spoke at the meeting.

Fire information number: (925) 519-6314.

Related Topics:
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