Fire at First Solar Alarms Fairmont

UPDATE LANCASTER, CA (Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.)—First Solar, Inc., the company which appears to be responsible for the activities that led to a range fire starting at about 170th between Avenues C and D on July 2 has called for a "community meeting" for this afternoon at 5:30 Lancaster. Alan Bernheimer, First Solar’s corporate communications director for North America, announced the meeting about 1 p.m. today.

Two days ago the Fairmont town council called for an emergency community meeting at 6:30 p.m. today at the WeeVill Market in the historic Fairmont area (see agenda at Community FYI, at the right on this page). The big difference? Fairmont’s community meeting is being held within the geographical community. First Solar’s meeting is being held at a hotel in Lancaster, 20 or so miles distant from the actual community, but at a competing time.

Inquiries to Bernheimer about why he did not collaborate to hold a community meeting with the residents of Fairmont, received a reply this afternoon: "we weren’t invited."

Fairmont Town Council President Dave Kerr has sent frequent emails to get in touch with First Solar over the past several months and First Solar representatives have attended two Fairmont Town Council meetings in the past month. Those meetings have been "candid" and sometimes heated as area residents say the company has neglected talking with its real neighbors rather than people 15-20 miles down the road. Messages asking David Kerr and councili secretary David Jefferies if they have been invited to First Solar’s community meeting have not yet been answered.

Bernheimer’s meeting—which is shaping up to look more like a press conference, perhaps, than a ‘community meeting’— will take place at the Hampton Inn & Suites Lancaster, 2300 Double Play Way, 93536 (located across from JetHawks Stadium, Ave I and 25th St. West).

NEENACH, CA (Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 4 p.m.)–The Fairmont Town Council is holding an emergency meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the WeeVill Market on Thursday, July 7. Fire and safety concerns are on the agenda.

A fire swept across an estimated 74 acres of rangeland on Saturday, July 2 when workers for First Solar, Inc. were preparing holes for installation of solar panels for their AV Solar Ranch 1 (AVSR1) according to Los Angeles County Fire Captain William Gamble, who said he did not yet have the official report. Gamble, from LACO Station 78, said the reporting location was in the vicinity of 177th and Avenue C, at about 11:15 a.m. An engine and patrol unit from Kern County, plus six from Los Angeles County responded, Gamble estimates, with three hand crews and three helicopters, which obtained water from hydrants and water tenders, he said. Tree farmer Pat Chiodo said he used a tractor to help construct a firebreak. Firefighters had an unconfirmed report that an overheated catalytic converter ignited dry grass. The pickup truck involved was not damaged, Gamble said.

This is part of the July 01, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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