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Valley Air and Kern County Fire share wildfire season resources

KCFD and the Valley Air Pollution District are sharing wildfire safety information so Kern County residents can keep themselves and their property as safe as possible.
Posted: 5:51 PM, May 15, 2023
Updated: 2023-05-15 21:38:44-04
wildfire (file)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Over the most recent weekend, two fields of dry vegetation caught fire in Kern County, signaling that wildfire season is here again, and officials with the Kern County Fire Department and San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District are reminding community members to protect themselves and be prepared.

"As these temperatures are rising you start seeing the grass turn from green to brown," said Nathan Goossens, a fire engineer with the Kern County Fire Department. "That brown grass is just dead grass, and that dead grass just burns quicker and hotter and it allows it to actually ignite faster as well."

Goossens says whether near your home or out in an open field, dry brush poses a wildfire threat, which is why it's a good idea to prepare yourself and your property now. KCFD advises clearing any dry brush within 30 feet of any structures on your property, as well as keeping vegetation groomed to limit the amount of ground fuel.

"Providing a 100-foot reduction of all non-ornamental combustibles and vegetation," said Goossens, "So that just means mow your weeds down. You don't have to take it down to bare minimal soil, but you want to cut them down to a reasonable length - about 6 inches or so."

nathan goossens
Kern County Fire Department Engineer Nathan Goossens

Goossens adds that it's important to follow the Kern County Fire Department's Hazard Reduction Checklist to stay safe. Some of the checklist's items include providing a 30-foot clearance of all vegetation around all structures and removing trees and limbs within 10 feet of stovepipes and chimney outlets, among other recommendations.

According to Goossens, KCFD puts personnel out in the field to help people better understand and implement their safety checklist in and around their own properties.

"We are out in the community and we actually go out and inspect properties in certain areas of our station areas, and we make sure that all the properties have met the hazard reduction checklist, and if not then they actually get a notification to actually start going through that process of, 'Hey, the fire department has seen this, and they are going to keep an eye on it from here on out,'" said Goossens.

Cassandra Melching, Outreach and Communications Representative for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says that wildfires and the heat they cause can also affect Kern County's air quality.

"Wildfire smoke is really, really harmful, and we know that asthma is on the rise in the valley, so whenever a forest fire breaks out and we become inundated with smoke, it becomes really, really difficult for a good majority of the public," said Melching.

Melching encourages residents to designate a 'clean air room' in their homes and prevent smoke from entering it. Valley Air has resources available on how to do this available for the public this season.

cassandra melching
Cassandra Melching, Outreach and Communications, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

"Having a plan, knowing that you are going to designate one particular room and make sure it's all sealed off. You keep the windows tightly closed, you keep the doors completely closed, and then just having a unit, whether a store-purchased or a homemade, DIY air purifier," said Melching.

For more information about air quality in the San Joaquin Valley or to see what wildfires might be impacting it, you can visit the Wildfire Information page at the Valley Air website.


The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has a number of tips for staying as healthy and safe as possible from wildfire smoke during this year's fire season.

Valley Air suggests that when there's a wildfire burning near where you live that you check the local air quality index before heading outside to make sure the air is safe for you to be exposed to.

Exposure to wildfire smoke can irritate the lungs and aggravate heart problems and other cardiopulmonary health concerns.

If you need to go outside during a time when you may be exposed to wildfire smoke, be sure to wear an N-95 mask. Cloth or paper masks will not protect against wildfire smoke.

To keep smoke from entering your home, close your windows and doors, and make sure your air conditioning unit is equipped with an air filter carrying a MERV rating of 13 or higher.