Kern County Fire Department fire crew mopping up hotspots from the ?School? fire after sundown Monday, Aug. 24. The fast-moving grass fire broke out at 11:45 a.m. near Interstate 5 between Fort Tejon and Lebec Roads directly across the freeway from El Tejon School. Cause of the fire was a runaway trailer separated from its towing vehicle.
A fast-moving grass fire that began Monday morning, Aug. 24 around 11:45 a.m. along the west side of Interstate 5 between Lebec and Fort Tejon Roads, threatened 15 homes and burned 65 acres before being extinguished.
Called the ‘School’ fire because of the proximity to El Tejon School directly across the freeway, it took 70 Kern County firefighters several hours to contain and mop up the charred hillsides. Assisting in the effort were personnel from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, CalFire, and Los Angeles County Fire Department in addition to water- and retardant-dropping aircraft.
Two hours into the fire, Kern County Fire Department Battalion Chief John Smith said, “It’s looking pretty good, but I’m not going to count my chickens.” He pointed to firefighters climbing up the ridgeline. “Those guys have to get all the way up there and all the way around the fire.”
He estimated the fire 20 percent contained at that point.
By 7 p.m., only a few hot spots were still smoldering as fire crews doused them with foam retardant and water.
Cause of the blaze was a vehicle towing a trailer along I-5. The trailer separated from the vehicle, sparking the nearby dry grass.
—Reported by Gary Meyer with Katy Penland
As the embers were still being controlled on the hill, Linda Gregory of Lebec wrote this:
I wish to thank the Kern County Firefighters for all their efforts. Matt (Radis) and I have lived in this house for five years. This is the closest fire has gotten to our home. I was driving home from Oxnard College when Matt called my cell. I pulled over to listen to the message and got to the part about “the fire was coming down the hill.”
I took the road as fast as I legally could. First, I was wondering why he was home from work so early. Second, I have four cats. I didn’t get to the part of the message where he said “Everything is okay.” Once again, thanks. You are my firefighters.
This is part of the August 28, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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