BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — It’s no secret that there’s been a rise in fires over the past year in Bakersfield, but what’s causing them?
Last year, with the Bakersfield Fire Department alone, there’s been a 20 percent increase in fires they’ve responded to. That's an increase of over 600 fires they've responded to, but it’s outside and trash fires that have had the largest increase.
Battalion Chief Brian Bowman with BFD said sometimes those can be the cause of structure fires.
“The year we’re dealing with is 2020 into 2021, and so looking back at the numbers, we’ve had about a 10.5 percent increase over that one-year span,” said Chief Bowman.
Chief Bowman said even outside, and trash fires have been on the rise: “The outside fires, we’ve had a 20 percent increase overall in just one year.”
In 2020 BFD saw 2,192 outside and trash fires, and 2,649 in 2021 for a 21 percent increase.
“Outside fires, which are your dumpster fires, alley fires, any kind of a trash fire, are, unfortunately, ones that end up getting into fires in the end.”
For one of the buildings that’s burned recently, you can still see the aftermath of that fire. Fire officials said it’s vacant buildings that are hit the most.
“We’ve had an increase, it seems, of vacant structures in certain parts of town. The transient or homeless population has increased in certain parts of town. A lot of the building fires are vacant structures, or they’re under remodel, or they’re having something done to them, so they’re not occupied.”
In total, Chief Bowman said the number of fires they’ve responded to in 2021 was 4,119 compared to 3,449 in 2020, for a 20-percent increase.
When it comes to the rise in fires, Bowman said there’s no easy solution.
“When you have a rise in this certain area of crime, it’s taking away from other areas that we’ve always had. With personnel being stretched thin, and then you throw COVID into the mix, I don’t have an answer for you, unfortunately, I wish I did.”
He said the best thing you can do is contact law authorities immediately if you see a fire or something unusual.
“If there’s something suspicious going on, if there’s someone in the area, or someone in a home you know to be vacant in your area, but you see people coming in and out of it, that’s when you can call law enforcement.”
Another thing you can factor in is cost. According to the fire department, when it comes to building fires, they’ve seen over $11 million in losses for owners.