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Drought conditions continue to heighten wildfire concerns

4,152 fires around the state so far this year.
Posted: 4:56 PM, Jun 28, 2021
Updated: 2021-07-08 16:45:59-04
California Wildfires

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Temperatures are heating up this week and coupled with severe drought conditions many experts say California is in for a worse than normal fire season.

Currently, the Shell Fire is still ongoing. It's burning next to Interstate 5 at the mouth of The Grapevine. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) officials say it has burned about 1,700 acres and is about 20 percent contained.

Shell Fire, June 2021

Covering California

Shell Fire along Interstate 5 has burned over 1,700 acres

Anthony Wright, 23ABC
11:36 AM, Jun 28, 2021

The California Highway Patrol says the fire started just before 1 p.m. Sunday. There are no evacuation orders in place.

The fire started Sunday at around 1 p.m. after a car traveling the north side of I-5 had a mechanical issue. The driver pulled over at which point the car caught fire. It spread from the vehicle to nearby grass, causing the wildfire. According to Andrew Freeborn of KCFD, it continues to impact traffic on The Grapevine, but there are no lane or road closures as of now.

How many fires are burning in California?

CAL FIRE reports that it responded to 4,152 fires around the state so far this year. Those fires burned roughly 31,869 acres. Thankfully, no lives have been lost on the scene so far.

So where are these fires happening?

If you take a look at this map of California you can see many of the fires broke out near Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose. Right now, CAL FIRE says there are 8 active fires in the state.

You can keep track of the current wildfire season on the CAL FIRE incidents page.

How can you help prevent wildfires?

Most of Kern County remains in the exceptional drought status. Due to that, concern continues to grow as more wildfires spark including in our community. That’s why fire officials say there are a few things you can start doing right now to help with the issue.

23ABC spoke with one Bakersfield Fire Department official who says the drought is always a concern for fires but for those in mountain communities you can prep your home, and here in the city, you can help when it comes to water.

BFD Deputy Chief Kevin Alberston says anything that comes in contact with the fuel base has a higher potential of actually igniting and starting a fire. And while the drought does not stop officials from extinguishing a fire it does slow down the process.

“The drought definitely is a concern for the fire service in general, it definitely creates a more receptive fuel base out there,” said Albertson. “When you get into the forest, the little more remote areas, they potentially like to bring more water in and aircraft have to fly a little further for water, so it delays things a little bit more."

If you are living in mountain areas that are at higher risk for a wildfire, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your home.

“If you’re living in an interface where you have the potential of a wildland or grass fire impacting your home, there are some things you want to do. One of the things is to remove all the dead vegetation within 100 feet of your house,” explained Albertson.

Residents can also help by preserving water. The Water Association of Kern County telling 23ABC you can do small tasks including turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, shaving, or doing your dishes, having water-smart appliances in your kitchen and laundry room, and only using sprinkler systems during low heat times.

But Alberston says the fire department continues to remain ready, should more wildfires break out.

“One of the biggest things is we start ordering extra resources, to give our crews time to be able to rehab, after incidents or during incidents.”

The Water Association of Kern County also says that summer is a vital time for water preservation as temperatures continue to reach triple digits across the county. They have an Instagram campaign called "Don’t Be That Guy." On there you can find tips and tricks for everyday ways to preserve your water usage, including reducing the number of times you flush your toilet per day to help conserve water.