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SIERRA WAY UPDATE: 155 fire ignites fears in Kern Valley residents about evacuation routes

The 155 fire prompted an evacuation order for three zones on June 6. Some residents were blocked from accessing the Red Cross shelter due to the ongoing closure of Sierra Way.
Posted at 7:21 PM, Jun 07, 2024

WOFFORD HEIGHTS, Calif. (KERO) — On Thursday June 6 the ‘155 fire’ started after a vehicle crashed on the 155, igniting a fire on both sides of the road and prompting an evacuation order for three zones in Wofford Heights. Kern River Valley residents are now expressing concern about the lack of evacuation routes in the area due to the ongoing closure of Sierra Way.

  • Sierra Way has been closed since April 10, 2023. Ina video posted by Kern County, District 1 Supervisor Phillip Peters said that the expected start date on construction to fix Sierra Way is July 15th with an expected completion date of September 23rd.
  • The 155 fire was contained to 50 acres and no structures were lost.


“So we saw the fire first and the firefighters coming in all around us and then the police came in and started knocking on doors, so I went around with the police so we could talk to some of the older residents - get them out right away,” said Peter Tebow, the Property Manager for Joseph James trailer park, which was under an evacuation order on Thursday.

“See that right there?” Tebow said pointing, “That was all smoke.”

The fire started due to a vehicle crash. Devon Herrera was detained by KCSO and CHP at the scene of the crash and arrested by the Kern County fire Department last night in connection with starting the fire.

The crash occurred south on the 155 of where Tebow lives - meaning he wasn’t able to get to the evacuation shelter that was set up in Lake Isabella - so he tried getting to Kernville.

“It was just gridlocked, there were lines of cars, I sat in my car for a half hour, that's when I decided to turn around and just come back here,” Tebow said, “That's when I realized there's really nowhere to go. Can’t go down to Sierra Way, that’s blocked, can’t go this way, the fires blocked that, so you can’t get to Isabella."

The fire didn’t end up spreading to residences - but it awoke fears in residents of Wofford Heights — like Aaron Mead.

“The fire behind us was pretty scary because I thought we were going to get evacuated and everything. It was just going,” said Mead.

Residents told 23ABC they see Sierra Way as an important evacuation route and are worried about a scenario where the 155 is closed headed to Lake Isabella, like it was on Thursday, and then have the 155 to Alta Sierra also close, like it was during the French Fire.

“The closest we could was maybe Kernville, but from there where do you go? Up to the mountains upriver? Go to a campground?” Tebow said.

The only option would be to go up Mountain Highway 99, which doesn’t have populated towns or cell phone service for hours.

“They just need to get the road fixed,” Mead said.

23ABC reached out to Kern County Public Works about Sierra Way - they did not provide a comment but Phillip Peters' office posted an update on the situation in a video posted to Kern County's you tube page late Friday afternoon.

In the video Phillip Peters said that the expected start date on construction to fix Sierra Way is July 15th with an expected completion date of September 23rd.

“We need Sierra Way to be open because you need at least two ways out of here. Because one of them is going to get blocked. There’s going to be a fire, there’s going to be a wreck, there’s going to be something and if you don’t have a second way out, you’re stuck,” Tebow said.

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