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Kern County Fire Department and American Red Cross prepare for wildfire season

Posted at 12:51 AM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 03:51:17-04

Last year’s wildfires were destructive to say the least, as more than 4 million acres were burned in California. But Kern County fire department Public Information Officer Andrew Freeborn said this wildfire season has the potential of becoming just as bad, if not worse.

“We are in some of the worst drought conditions in California’s history,” Freeborn said. “The largest wildfires, the ones with the worst fire behavior, erratic fire behavior, they always come late in the season when you have these sort of dry conditions. We already have that right now.”

With that said, Freeborn added that the Kern County Fire department has been preparing for what’s to come.

“Throughout the winter months, and in fact this last year, we kept more people that would be seasonal employees on for longer periods of time, to work on these ‘projects,’ as we call them,” Freeborn said.

These projects are acts of wildfire prevention: This year KCFD has received more than 2.6 million dollars so far to complete and maintain projects throughout our county’s mountain communities.

“And that’s all that way from Alta Sierra, all the way over to Pine Mountain Club. All of these communities we’ve been working in. And this is removing trees, it’s moving brush away from roadways to make safe access ways, it’s putting in fuel breaks,” Freeborn said.


Cal Fire Fire Prevention grants received by KCFD.
Alta Sierra Fuel Modification Project
  • $1 million+.
  • Strengthen and enlarge the existing “Donut” fuel break around the community.
  • Hired local loggers to remove dead trees.
  • KCFD crews and equipment used to treat fuels by masticating and piling and burning.
  • This project will be completed this year resulting in a much more fire safe community.
Kern River Valley Community Protection Project
  • $1 million+.
  • Create and maintain fuel breaks throughout the KRV.
  • KCFD crews and equipment used to treat fuels by masticating and piling and burning.
  • This project will be completed this year greatly enhancing fire protection throughout the KRV.
Kern County Chipper Days
  • $200,000+.
  • KCFD crews help landowners throughout KC to provide defensible space for their homes by chipping roadside brush.
Kern County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)
  • $100,000.
  • KCFD has hired an environmental consultant to prepare a countywide CWPP.
  • The CWPP will prioritize future fuel reduction projects throughout the County.
  • This project will be completed this year.
Cal Fire Early Action Projects. This money was just made available last month to treat high priority fuel reduction projects statewide.
Tecuya Ridge Fuel Reduction Project
  • $350,000+.
  • Mastication to protect communities such as Frazier Park, PMC, Pinion Pines, Lake of the Woods, etc.
  • This project ties in with a large Forest Service project that will greatly improve fire defense in the area.
Future Cal Fire Fire Prevention grants (applied for, not yet awarded)
  • Chipper Days (continue very successful and popular program throughout the County).
  • Fuel Break Maintenance Project (Maintain critical fuels breaks countywide).
  • Roadside Brushing Project (Brush roads countywide to provide escape routes and ingress/egress for the public and emergency vehicles).
  • Several grants to purchase tools and equipment used in fuel reduction projects (Chainsaws and other hand tools, masticator, skid steer, chippers, etc).
-Andrew Freeborn, Kern County Fire Department

It's not just firefighters that have been preparing for this wildfire season: According to Cindy Huge with the American Red Cross, they’ve been training volunteers,about a couple hundred of them, with more volunteers and supplies to deploy to Kern County if necessary.

“We have trailers with all our supplies all throughout this county, so no matter where the wildfire would initially break out, there’d be a trailer close by, and of course we could pull other trailers close to that area,” Huge said. “But we’re prepared and hope people will be as well. And we hope people are prepared too.”

How she said you should prepare: have a “go bag” ready and checking for possible natural disasters in your area frequently. Huge cited the Red Cross app as a resource. Freeborn also added the importance of being prepared

“If we say we’re 100 prepared, then individuals may become complacent. If we say we’re not, individuals may have a heightened sense of anxiety unnecessarily,” Freeborn said.

If you find yourself displaced during a fire, you can call 1-800-REDCROSS which will connect you with local red cross volunteers who can get you food and shelter. They’re also still looking for volunteers.