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Stopping fire with fire: How Kern County Fire Department handles prescribed burns

The White Wolf Public Safety Burn is an annual prescribed burn on HWY 58 and HWY 223
Posted at 5:58 PM, Jun 26, 2024

ARVIN, Calif. (KERO) — The White Wolf Public Safety Burn is an annual prescribed burn on HWY 58 and HWY 223. Its purpose— is to create a buffer for potential wildfires.

  • Video shows why it is important to have prescribed burns in grassy areas near highways.
  • Kern County Fire Department held its annual White Wold Public Safety Burn on HWY 58 and HWY 223.
  • The purpose of the burn is to create a buffer for potential wildfires.


If you were driving on Highway 58 on Tuesday night you may have noticed a fire, a fire that was started for safety reasons. Prescribed burns are done to prevent larger fires from starting, and we got a look at how it all went down.

"We're going to come in and we're going to burn slow and we're going to burn controlled," said Kern County Fire Department PIO John Drucker.

It's called the White Wolf Public Safety Burn—a prescribed burn that started on Bena Road right off of HWY 58 and made its way towards HWY 223. It's purpose— to create a buffer for potential wildfires.

"There are three different factors when we look at how a wildfire will burn," explained Drucker, "The vegetation, the weather, and the topography."

According to KCFD, this specific area has strong winds, uphill slopes, and dry vegetation—meeting all three criteria.

"Like many of the highways in Kern County, this one poses a threat because if a fire starts here that fire has the potential to go to places where we're protecting people's lives and we're protecting people's homes," said Drucker.

A threat that he says is usually due to human factors. Drucker says one of them involves vehicles that may create a spark, like dragging a chain. To prevent the next wildfire, KCFD tells me they burn this location annually.

"Because of life safety reasons, property protection reasons, and because of environmental impact, this is an area that we have chosen to protect by coming in here and using this public safety burn to prevent a fire from being able to grow large," stated Drucker.

Allowing KCFD to control the burn is a carefully prescribed plan created by experts taking wind speed, temperature, humidity, and air pollution levels into consideration.

Allowing them to defend neighboring communities like Bear Valley, Stallion Springs, and Arvin AND land that is home to natural species…

"There are going to be pauses in the way that we do this," explained Drucker, "This allows native species that are living in the area to recognize that there's a fire going on and it gives them plenty of time to move aside while we do what we're doing."

As KCFD carried out their plan to burn approximately seven miles along HWY 223 on Tuesday night, an unexpected fire on the west side of the county impeded them from completing the project.

With summer in full swing, Drucker recommends that the public be alert and aware of potential fire hazards around them.

"Make sure you know where your fire extinguisher is, make sure it's handy. Or fill a bucket of water and have that on standby. Simple things like that could rapidly extinguish a vegetation fire."

According to KCFD, they will finish the prescribed burn later this week.

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