A brush fire near Lake Isabella in Kern County on Saturday destroyed five homes and forced the mandatory evacuation of hundreds of residents in the hillside community.
The Calgary fire erupted about 1:30 p.m. near Dollar Street and Old State Road in Wofford Heights, which is on the northwest side of the lake, authorities said.
Dozens of Kern County and U.S. Forest firefighters are battling the blaze, which is continuing to threaten homes. An evacuation center has been set up at the Kern River Valley Senior Citizens Center.
There is 45% contained, authorities said.
Saturday evening about a dozen area residents parked their vehicles off Wofford Boulevard and Evans Road to watch plumes of smoke, awaiting news from officials as water-dropping helicopters hovered above. Some witnesses lived along Evans Road near the fire.
Ron Ellickson said his family first noticed the smoke while driving back from a vacation in San Diego. He said he bought his home 13 years ago in Pala Ranches in northwest Wofford Heights before retiring there a couple years ago.
“I’m questioning my move up here,” he said.
Jackie Weser, 23, said she was at a friend’s house when she began receiving text messages about the fire. She and her friend ran to Weser’s house about a mile away, hosed down the structure and unsuccessfully tried to persuade her mother to leave. The home has been in the family for three generations.
“She ain’t leaving now,” Weser said. “She’s stubborn.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
But fire officials are looking for a person of interest who was described as a woman driving a vehicle without tires.
Bernhard reported from Wofford Heights and Carcamo from Los Angeles.
7:05 p.m.: This article was updated with new containment figure.
This article was orginally posted at 6:30 p.m.