Blazes destroy 30-plus houses


A fast-moving wildfire has destroyed more than 30 homes and was threatening 150 structures about 10 miles southeast of Tehachapi, and a second blaze has burned at least six homes in northern Kern County, firefighters said Tuesday.

The West fire started near Tehachapi about 3 p.m. and grew to more than 500 acres by early evening. Authorities said the small hill community of Old West Ranch was evacuated and about 200 firefighters were on the scene, with four aerial tankers.

The fire is west of Blackburn Canyon, burning northwest into an area where there is heavy fuel, authorities said.

“The wind has been the real factor out here,” Kern County Fire Department spokesman Anthony Romero told the Bakersfield Californian.

Mike Niccoli, who lives in Tehachapi, told the Bakersfield paper he was concerned about people he knows in the area.

“I’ve got a lot of friends up in Old West Ranch, and we’ve been calling. We can’t get hold of anybody,” he said.

Niccoli said the fire was spewing thick black smoke and appeared to be about 1 1/2 miles wide. He said he was about two miles from the blaze and could see flames topping the tall pines in the area.

“We’ve heard a lot of propane tanks going off,” he told the Californian. “I’ve been up here for 10 years. I’ve seen fires, but never as bad as this.”

A shelter has been set up for evacuated residents at a former junior high school in Tehachapi.

In northern Kern County, an 8-square-mile wildfire dubbed the Bull fire in Sequoia National Forest has destroyed six homes in Riverkern and forced the evacuation of a camp for juvenile offenders near Kernville. The cause of the blaze, which began Monday, is under investigation, according to the Kern County Fire Department.

Among the houses destroyed by in the Bull fire was the home of Edward and Pat Crain. They lost everything, including hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of memorabilia and the only pictures they had of their slain daughter.

“This is unbelievable,” Edward Crain told the Californian on Tuesday as he stared at the ruins of his home. “This is unbelievable.”

Resident Karin Josif was luckier.

She said that as she drove from her home on Monday after fire crews ordered her to evacuate, she looked back at her house for what she thought would be the last time.

“When I left here, I thought the whole neighborhood was going to burn,” Josif told the Californian.

But on Tuesday, she found her home had been spared.

Authorities said about 700 firefighters were battling the Bull fire, which had consumed more than 5,000 acres by Tuesday evening and forced closures on the road from Kernville to Fairview. Campgrounds at Cherry Hill Road and Horse Meadow also have been closed.

There were no reported injuries in either fire.

Times staff writer Kate Linthicum contributed to this report.