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Wofford Heights shut down and evacuated due to French Fire

Posted at 2:17 AM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 11:36:47-04

WOFFORD HEIGHTS, Calif. (KERO) — An exodus ensued in Wofford Heights Sunday night. This was the result of an evacuation order for the entire town due to the French Fire, a vegetation fire near Lake Isabella, which has been burning since Wednesday.

Andy Kenyon, a Wofford Heights resident saw the smoke and heard about the order from friends. He said he’s concerned for his safety, but more so for his cats. Upon hearing the order, he went back to his home to retrieve one of them that proceeded to hide under the sink.

“I’m extremely worried right now,” Kenyon said. “I want to get her out from under the sink, get out, and dodge.”

Meanwhile, another Wofford Heights resident, Gary Lowrey said he is “staying until the last minute.”

“Most of these people cannot afford to go to a hotel or whatever, and you go to an evacuation center, there are cots and stuff, the lights are on, so if you’ve got kids, you can’t sleep,” Lowrey said.

Lowrey has been through similar situations three times. He explained that he’ll only leave if the fire goes over the ridge parallel to his house.

“It looks like people aren’t obeying a lawful order or whatever, but the problem is, where do you go?” Lowrey said. “What do you do with your animals? I have four dogs, and tons of stuff. People say, ‘just get your personal stuff.’ But you have pictures, you have computer programs, tools and stuff, so you're reluctant to leave all that stuff behind.”

Sean Collins with the Kern County Fire Department explained that these orders are issued for a reason. Currently there are about 800 firefighters trying to contain the French Fire’s Flames, according to Collins. The fire as of Sunday night is at 13,816 acres and 10 percent contained.

Even with some headway made on containment, acres continue to burn. Wind speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour pushed the flames in the direction of Wofford Heights, according to Collins.

All areas that were under an evacuation warning, went under an evacuation order as of Sunday night.

“You never know 100 percent, and that’s why we’re taking that advantage to notify people that they need to evacuate the area,” Collins said. “It’s very important for people to evacuate so that there’s not traffic in the way of firefighters trying to get in, because if we need more resources, then we need to bring them in quickly."

Kern County Sheriff's Office deputies went door-to-door Sunday night to notify people of the potential of a serious fire, according to Collins. The Kern Transit in Lake Isabella assisted with those evacuations, as one resident says many are elderly. Amber Ortegon with the Kern transit said there were about six buses set up at the U.S. Post Office in Wofford Heights to evacuate residents Sunday night.

“We’re ready to go here, right now,” Amber Ortegon with Kern Transit in Lake Isabella said in regards to the six buses they took around town to get people out.

Red Cross has an evacuation center set up at Woodrow Wallace Elementary School which is located at 3240 Erskine Creek Road.