Clockwise from top left: This photo by Chuck Herbert from a ridge above the Los Padres Estates blaze shows what was at risk June 18 if the fire had escaped into the surrounding hills; the Los Padres Estates fire on Lancer Way threatened other structures and the hills behind it; a second fire on Mt. Pinos Way at about 8 p.m. also occurred on Wednesday, June 18. Firefighters and Hall ambulance answered the call.
By Patric Hedlund and Gary Meyer, with Chuck Noble and Chuck Herbert
Kern County firefighters were caught with two mountain homes burning at the same time on Wednesday, June 18. A blaze on Lancer Way in Lebec burned a Los Padres Estates mobile home to the ground, leaving only a few charred timbers standing.
While firefighters were still working in Lebec, a home near Mt. Pinos Way and Monterey Trail in the center of Frazier Park exploded into flames when a water heater pilot light ignited spilled gasoline in a garage.
Frazier Park’s Engine #57 firefighters, normally just a few blocks away, were assisting Lebec’s Engine #56 in Lebec.
According to Kern County Fire Battalion Chief John Smith, the Lebec fire was reported at 5:21 p.m. Upon arrival, fire crews were faced with flames rising 30 feet into the sky.
All three occupants of the home on Lancer Way were able to evacuate to safety and there were no injuries reported. Smith said family pets were also taken to safety. According to neighbor Chuck Noble, homeowner Chris Weiger and her roommate Steve Barker said they think the fire started in the sunroom and “took off so fast that they barely had time to grab the dog and their wallets."
Approximately 10 Kern County firefighters responded to the scene and contained the fire within 57 minutes, working to prevent the spread of the fire to neighboring structures. The fire had the potential to spread to exposures on the north and south side of the structure, and also into the surrounding brush. Fire crews from the United States Forest Service were staged at the scene in the event that the fire might spread to the surrounding brush.
The Frazier Park fire was called in at 8:26 p.m., according to dispatch records. Engine #52 responded at 8:36 along with KCFD patrols. Frazier Park’s Engine #57 arrived at 8:43. The home had been selected by owner John Janson, in part, he said in an email, “because it is so close to the fire station.”
Janson’s tenant, Robert Reese, had turned a water hose on the blaze and was helped by passersby to try to contain the blaze while waiting for firefighters to arrive.
Reese is now in the Sherman Oaks Burn Center undergoing skin grafts for ‘borderline second and third degree burns,” he said in an interview from the hospital.
He had been working in the garage, following step-by-step printed instructions to increase his motorcycle’s fuel efficiency when “the fuel cock came off in my hand, spilling gasoline onto the floor,” he said. Within a second the pilot light had ignited the spill into a ball of fire.
KCFD reports said he received “flash burns to his skin and airway.”
In Lebec, firefighters were able to save approximately $300,000 in value of surrounding properties. The fire destroyed an estimated $150,000 in property.
The two adjacent homes received minor damage, in addition to a truck parked at one of the homes. “I am not a building contractor, so I don’t know for sure, but it looks like it might be about $20,000 dollars in damage” to the adjacent homes, Chief Smith said at the scene.
The cause of the blaze was not known and Fire-Arson investigators arrived just before 7 p.m. Chief Smith said the Red Cross was en route to help get the occupants situated with a place to stay and provisions if necessary.
In Frazier Park, firefighters were able to save about $80,000 in value to property and contents. However, the fire destroyed an estimated $100,000 of property and contents.
According to KCFD spokesperson Sean Collins, the patient’s prognosis is very good.
This is part of the June 27, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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