A 39-year promise not yet kept

  • That same day, firefighters were burning wood cleared from fire breaks near the Pine Mountain community.

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    That same day, firefighters were burning wood cleared from fire breaks near the Pine Mountain community.

  • This land was given to Kern County to build the fire station promised to the Pine Mountain community 39 years ago. In 2009 $5 million was allocated by the county, but no building has yet begun.

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    This land was given to Kern County to build the fire station promised to the Pine Mountain community 39 years ago. In 2009 $5 million was allocated by the county, but no building has yet begun.

By Patric Hedlund

The Kern County Fire Department (KCFD) has a reputation for being the most dependable service that residents of the Mountain Communities receive for their tax dollars.

When someone spins out on the ice and goes off a mountain road-or smells smoke coming out of their dryer vent in the garage or feels a crushing pain in their chest-it is Kern County firefighters who are usually the first to respond.

During the fire season it is KCFD that is on the job, constantly batting down the small, sudden blazes that lightning strikes ignite in forest snags near Pine Mountain Club or the grass fires along the freeway from big rigs with hot brakes, extinguishing them before destruction can roar through the canyons of Lebec.

When we have terrifying wildfires, such as the Day fire or the multiple fires up on Tecuya Ridge, it has been the Kern County Fire Department that was there coordinating as incident command with the U.S. Forest Service and L.A. County Fire.

For 39 years now there has been a promise from the county to build a fire station to provide normal living and working space for firefighters stationed at the western edge of the Mountain Communities.

A tiny real estate sales cabin built in the early 1970s became a temporary shelter, but parcels of land were donated free of charge to Kern County by the property owners of Pine Mountain Club to build a real fire station. In 2006 the temporary cabin was condemned, but still no station had been built. In November 2008 the community voted to bill itself annually to bring Kern County Fire Department’s first 24-hour, 7-days-a-week firefighter-paramedic service to their village. But still there was no fire station. Firefighters and paramedics are living in a rented house across the street from where their fire trucks are parked. Four years ago—after the county’s request was fulfilled that more land be donated by the community—the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to allocate $5 million from a $115 million public works bond issue to build the long-awaited station

But last week KCFD Chief Brian Marshall said construction costs for the facility, which only went out to bid in 2012, came back too high. He said the plans are being ‘redesigned, with options.’

As we were going to press

Supervisor David Couch’s staff sent a note as we were going to press, quoting Kern County Construction Services Division Director, Geoffrey Hill: "We are planning to submit the [redesigned] plans for bid plan check on 2-19-13, with bidding to follow. We expect Notice to Proceed to be issued in early May. Construction is estimated to be 15 months and will be complete in August 2014."

This is part of the February 15, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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