An attack by air stopped a fast-moving grass fire that burned about 700 acres Monday south of the Ikea distribution center near the base of the Grapevine. Crews say the blaze was probably started by arching electrical wires.
Firefighters arrived just before noon to a five-acre grass fire moving rapidly south towards the Grapevine just west of the I-5 freeway, according to a Kern County Fire Department news release.
Dozers and air tankers arrived after a second alarm was sounded. A helicopter dropped water, and four tankers dropped fire retardant.
“Fortunately for us, with our air operations unit, we were able to get our air attack plane up in the air and able to get all the tankers that responded,” Kern County Fire spokesman Sean Collins told Eyewitness News.
The department’s helicopter scooped up water from a nearby canal, and Collins said that slowed down the flames. The tankers stopped the blaze.
Crews managed to keep the flames away from the industrial complex right off the I-5 freeway.
The fire chewed through Tejon Ranch grazing land, and raced through dry grass. Those are conditions that worry fire crews.
“We’ve been pretty dry for the last few years, and although we’ve had some rain at the beginning of this season — it kind of came in on one hit, so id didn’t have a chance to be absorbed up into the plant life,” Collins said. “So the plant life is pretty dry.”
He predicts this could be a tough summer fire season. “We still have a lot of summer to come, it’s still pretty dry and it’s probably going to be a long fire season this year.”
The firefighter said they got lucky with the blaze Monday. With only light winds, smoke didn’t blow over the nearby freeway — and flames did not race up the hillside of the Grapevine Mountains. It could have been much worse.
“The biggest challenge we have already identified, if that fire had gotten in that canyon area — and the way fire travels up a canyon…we would be looking at evacuations in that south area just as a precaution,” Collins said.
A total of 56 firefighters responded to the scene, with contributions from the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
The fire was extinguished in about two hours, and there were no reported injuries.