Wildfire Breaks Out in Lebec–Continual Updates

  • The Mountain Enterprise has marked this fire department map to show where the fire lines were as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, Aug 25. The fire front (shown in red) was one mile northeast from Frazier Park (shown in green) at that time.

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    The Mountain Enterprise has marked this fire department map to show where the fire lines were as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, Aug 25. The fire front (shown in red) was one mile northeast from Frazier Park (shown in green) at that time.

  • A Kern County strike team moves in on the lower flank of the Post fire above Lebec Road just 30 minutes after the fire started. [Mountain Enterprise photo]

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    A Kern County strike team moves in on the lower flank of the Post fire above Lebec Road just 30 minutes after the fire started. [Mountain Enterprise photo]

  • The Post fire rages up the hillside west of Lebec Road between No Name Rd and North Drive shortly after ignition on Tuesday, Aug. 24 [Mountain Enterprise photo]

    Image 3 of 5
    The Post fire rages up the hillside west of Lebec Road between No Name Rd and North Drive shortly after ignition on Tuesday, Aug. 24 [Mountain Enterprise photo]

  • By 3:15 p.m. a tower of smoke could be seen from downtown Frazier Park, and flames were visible on the tops of hillsides towards Lebec. This is the view from The Mountain Enterprise parking lot shortly after 3 p.m. [Mountain Enterprise photo]

    Image 4 of 5
    By 3:15 p.m. a tower of smoke could be seen from downtown Frazier Park, and flames were visible on the tops of hillsides towards Lebec. This is the view from The Mountain Enterprise parking lot shortly after 3 p.m. [Mountain Enterprise photo]

  • This shot by Dylan Keenberg at about 7:30 p.m. is looking down on the hamlet of Frazier Park from his family home at the peak of Oakmont Trail. In contrast to those taken in the valley, this photo shows the fire has mellowed on the ridge, he said. Keenberg wrote earlier that from his perch it appears the fire is most active in a direction away from the town. In this more comprehensive picture, the fire looks like it is settling down, he said.

    Image 5 of 5
    This shot by Dylan Keenberg at about 7:30 p.m. is looking down on the hamlet of Frazier Park from his family home at the peak of Oakmont Trail. In contrast to those taken in the valley, this photo shows the fire has mellowed on the ridge, he said. Keenberg wrote earlier that from his perch it appears the fire is most active in a direction away from the town. In this more comprehensive picture, the fire looks like it is settling down, he said.

Community videographer Drew Beccue of StarCycle took this short video of the DC tanker's retardant drops on the fire. The view is from Frazier Mountain Park Road in Lebec.

Thanks to NBC Los Angeles for the aerial footage. There may be two ads on the front of these clips, but the shots are worth it.

(Incident coverage begins at the bottom of this page)

UPDATE (Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010, 8 p.m.)—A community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Lebec Community Church (2350 Lebec Road). The Post fire Incident Command, Kern County Fire Chief Nick Dunn and U.S. Forest Service officials will be there to answer questions, to listen to the public’s experience and to talk about the measures being taken to rehabilitate the hillsides which have burned. They will also address hazards which may have been created in the fire’s aftermath.

The Post fire is now 76 percent contained. Today firefighters lit backfires at the top of O’Neil Canyon to remove fuel in the area. This "burn off" activity brought the count to 1,300 acres burned, and produced a smoke plume that caused some residents to fear the fire had started up again with mid-afternoon winds. Containemnt is expected by Saturday. Today there were 841 firefighters on the job. "We have a lot of Kern, Ventura, CalFire, L.A. County, L.A. City, U.S. Forest Service, with 30 hand crews, 52 engines and six helicopters," Collins reports.

The estimated cost to date has been $2.6 million, according to Sean Collins, Kern County Fire Department spokesperson. Federal and state grants assist with most of that cost.

Collins urged the public from Frazier Park and Lebec to come to tomorrow’s meeting. "This is an opportunity to meet with the forest service reps for Los Padres, the incident commander and the Kern County Fire Chief. It’s an opportunity to speak with them, listen to them, consider how well the evacuation went," Collns said. He added that they were very glad that this was a "good fire," in which no homes were lost and no injuries were reported.  

"Here’s the good thing: if people do their hazard reduction—limb up trees 6 feet above the ground,  keep a green area around the house, remove debris, keeping a 100 foot clear space, keep the wood around house maintained by treating it so it will not be dry and flammable, and remove the pine needles and leaves from the roofs—you reduce your risk."

"Friday, as a team, there is still a lot of work to do, with cleaning up the inburned areas so there are no hazards to anybody. They will do the mop ups to the interior and go to work rehabilitating those area. To protect from water runoff they create water bars using downed logs laid at an angle to the slope to reduce erosion, and make berms to direct water in to the natural drainages. They will also spead some of that downed brush to blend into the hillsidee, to make it look a little better," Collins said.

UPDATE (Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010, 1:28 p.m.)—The photo slideshow has been updated to include more contributions from  our community reporters and photographers since the fire broke out on Tuesday, Aug. 24. See additional photos by Chuck Noble documenting the Days 2 and 3 aftermath and mop up in Los Padres Estates by clicking here.

UPDATE (Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010, 7 a.m.)—The Post fire is now 63 percent contained.  "There are a lot of resources still on it," said Sean Collins, speaking for the Kern County Fire Department. "We have five helicopters on the fire today. Air tankers are not flying unless there is an immediate need. The fire is definitely slowing down."

Personnel are starting to be released, with 938 firefighters working at this time, down from 1,029.  They will continue to be released from the fire as conditions warrant.

"High temperatures of 95 to100 degrees with humidity in the low teens are expected today, with very mild 3-5 mile per hour wind activity," Collins said. The threat of the fire starting up again is low, "unless we have a lightening storm like the one that flew through Tehachapi yesterday, where three small fires from lightening strikes started," he concluded.

A community meeting this evening to answer questions from Frazier Park and Lebec residents who were threatened by the Post fire is being considered by Post fire Incident Command. The decision has not yet been made. Further information will be posted here if a meeting is called.

UPDATE (Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, 8:00 p.m.)—All schools will be open on Thursday, according to Kern County Fire Department Public Information Officer Sean Collins. As of 8 p.m., a revised and more accurate GPS measurement of the fire’s size is 1,000 acres burned. The fire is 60% contained. There are now 1,029 firefighters working the Post fire. There will be air support on Thursday, but fire officials will not know which type of aircraft until Thursday morning.

UPDATE (Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, 2:50 p.m.)—Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft continue water and retardant drops today. At about 12 noon today plumes of smoke began appearing over the mountaintops above Frazier Park again. There have been no houses lost and no injuries reported at this time. The fire is not presently threatening any homes. Kern County’s Ready Kern reverse 911 system has telephoned 319 residents, according to Kern County Fire Department Public Information Officer Sean Collins. The system tells residents that they need to be prepared to evacuate in case that becomes necessary.

Community reporter Chuck Noble of Lebec says that at 1 p.m. fire crews were mopping up O’Neil Canyon and the forest service crews are lining up to go in. The wind has shifted and residents have been notified that they must be prepared to leave again if the fire pushes back towards the canyon.

UPDATE (Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, 11:33 a.m.)Editor’s Note: According to Kern County Fire Chief Nick Dunn, this proclamation makes it possible for KCFD to secure a federal grant to pay for the DC10 and other aerial firefighting resources that kept the Post fire from rushing over the ridges into Frazier Park. "It is very expensive," Dunn told a press conference last evening. About 650 firefighters have been deployed. Hot spots in the fire are being attacked on Wednesday. A 30 percent containment was announced at 7 a.m. August 25. Five fixed-wing tankers and five helicopters fought the blaze yesterday.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Proclaims State of Emergency in Kern County Due to Wildfire

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today proclaimed a state of emergency in Kern County as a result of several fires that continue to burn. Those fires have burned over 2,000 acres, threatening hundreds of homes and other structures and requiring evacuations.

In May, the Governor signed an executive order which mobilized the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and other state agencies to secure and deploy the additional resources and personnel that are necessary to save lives and protect homes statewide from wildfires.

The text of the proclamation is below:

PROCLAMATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY

WHEREAS on August 24, 2010, several wildfires started in Kern County and they continue to burn; and

WHEREAS these fires have burned approximately 2,000 acres and have not been contained; and

WHEREAS these fires have threaten hundreds of homes and other structures, required the evacuation of residents and the opening of an emergency shelter; and

WHEREAS on August 24, 2010, I requested, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted, a Fire Management Assistance Grant to assist with firefighting costs; and

WHEREAS on August 24, 2010, Kern County declared a local emergency and requested that I declare a state of emergency; and

WHEREAS the circumstances of these fires, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of any single county, city and county, or city and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and

WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exist due to the fires in Kern County.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the state Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code, HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist within Kern County.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that all agencies of the state government utilize and employ state personnel, equipment and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of my California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) and the State Emergency Plan, and that Cal EMA provide local government assistance under the authority of the California Disaster Assistance Act.

I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this proclamation.

UPDATE (Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, 9 a.m.)–Pine Mountain Learning Center is open today, according to administrator Mary Griffin. The other schools of the El Tejon Unified School District will be closed Wednesday.

UPDATE (Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, 7:15 a.m.)—During this morning’s 7 a.m. press briefing, The Mountain Enterprise asked Kern County Fire Department Public Information Officer Sean Collins if it would be fair to assume that full control of the Post fire could take several more days. He said that several days for full control is a reasonable estimate. Asked how much more containment could be expected for today, beyond the current 30% figure, he would only say that fire officials hope to gain further containment today. Collins did say that they will be making heavy use of air drops of water and retardant where needed.  He said there is not currently a threat to homes or the Frazier Park area but cautioned that this can change as weather conditions change. Collins said that hand crews are doing much of the work right now to control the fire as vehicles and even bulldozers cannot reach many of the rough terrain areas. According to radio traffic monitored last evening, it was indicated that some hand crews were bedding down to sleep out in their work areas, in the hills last night. Hand crew members typically carry 30 to 50 lb packs. Collins said supervisors constantly monitor for the wellbeing of crewmembers to ensure that they can safely carry out their duties. They normally work 12 hours on and 12 hours off, he said.

UPDATE (Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010, 6:15 a.m.)—Containment of the Post fire is now at 30 percent. The decision to keep all El Tejon Unified School District schools closed has not changed. About 650 firefighters are now on the job in the hills above Lebec and along the rugged ridges above Frazier Park, where 1,300 acres burned yesterday. Shift change is occurring at this time, with firefighters being shuttled from the Ikea warehouse area at the base of the Grapevine. No homes have been lost in Tuesday’s blaze.

"ReadyKern reverse 911 alerts were used yesterday to help with the evacuations in Lebec and to give a preparedness warning in Frazier Park," Sean Collins of the Kern County Fire Department said. He urged all residents to go online to a secure site to register home, work and family cell numbers at ReadyKern.com for early alerts in the case of emergency.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 10:56 p.m.)—El Tejon School District will close all schools tomorrow. Superintendent Katie Kleier just called The Mountain Enterprise to say that the decision has been made to close all the district’s schools tomorow. "I talked to the incident commanders and they feel that it is in the best interest of the safety of the kids [to keep the school closed on Wednesday]. Firefighters said they do not have a dozer line in behind the school. For us it is a simpler process to close all the schools," Kleier explained. She said that Kern County Fire personnel were concerned that "if something happened" with fire conditions, it would become much more complicated to also have to evacuate the school.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 10:41 p.m.)—This Post Fire Update has just been received from Kern County Fire Department: Lebec, Ca – Tuesday, August 24, 2010 update – over 500 firefighters continue to work on containment of the Post fire. The fire has burned approximately 1,300 acres. Crews will continue to work through the night as the temperature drops and the humidity rises. All evacuation orders have been lifted.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 10:28 p.m.)—Lance Bergstrom has been providing photos to this site during the day. He is on Nebraska Trail in Frazier Park. We asked what he could see from there at this hour: "We have a view from our garage roof–only a few ‘campfires’ earlier and now only one. We can see ground crews working by the ‘headlights’ they are wearing. Also some vehicle lights. There is a red glow behind the ridge."

Sean Collins, speaking for the Kern County Fire Department command center, said that KCFD may ask that Frazier Park School be closed tomorrow. Superintendent Katie Kleier was contacted by The Mountain Enterprise for comment. She said she had not yet been contacted by KCFD and that a decision will be made by 6 a.m. tomorrow.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 9:30 p.m.)—All Lebec residents were allowed back to their homes around 8 p.m., after a day of worry and frustration at having no time to pack belongings before being told to evacuate this afternoon. Frazier Park residents are still being told to prepare themselves in case they need to be asked to evacuate. Winds have died down this evening, and massive resources have been brought in to fight the fires, including ground crews that will be working through the night, according to the Kern County Fire Department. 

"There is no containment at this time. We have over 500 personnel on the fire at this time," Sean Collins said on behalf of the Kern County Fire Department.

To see very useful aerial shots, submitted by NBC-TV personnel to The Mountain Enterprise this evening (they said they have been monitoring this website all day), go to the second video above. The kind notes from the community thanking us for our running updates of the fire have been much appreciated by the staff of The Mountain Enterprise.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 9 p.m.)—El Tejon Unified School District Superintendent Katie Kleier was asked about ETUSD’s plans for opening schools tomorrow: "The last report I got is that it looks pretty good that we will open school tomorrow," Kleier said in a telephone interview this evening. "We are waiting on a status report from the fire department, Our decision will be made first thing in the morning. We will start that process between 4:30 and 5 a.m. and start getting the word out no later than 6 a.m."

The Mountain Enterprise
will post the information as soon as it is available.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 7:20 p.m.)—Kern County’s ‘Ready Kern Reverse 911 System’ is working.
Cat Buckles writes: "I just got a call on my cell phone! This was the general message: ‘The Frazier Park vicinity is threatened by a wildland fire. Frazier Park is under a precautionary evacuation. The fire may become a threat in the near future and you must be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice

"’If you choose to leave, go to Frazier Mountain High School at 700 Falcon Way (off of Peace Valley Road) in Lebec. Alert your neighbors. Stay tuned to your TV and radio stations for more information.’"

Of course, you can stay tuned to this website too!

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010 6:20 p.m.)—The fire is now offiicially named "the Post fire." Kern County Fire Chief Nick Dunn and Supervisor Ray Watson are holding a press conference at 6:30 p.m. in Lebec. We will provide a complete update about that event. Meanwhile, The Mountain Enterprise is pursuing information about the possible cause of the fire.

See below for a checklist to help you get prepared in the case that evacuation is recommended from the Frazier Park area.

Here is the official press release for the news conference:

Lebec- CA, On August 24, 2010 at approximately 12:25 P.M., the Kern County Fire Department and Bureau of Land Management responded to a wildland fire on the west side of Interstate 5, South of Fort Tejon State Park. Approximately 200 firefighters are on-scene including, assistance from the US Forest Service, L.A. County Fire Department, the Kern County Sheriff and CHP.

Upon arrival, crews were faced with approximately half a mile of burning vegetation. The fire was traveling at a fast rate of spread uphill through steep terrain and heavy vegetation, immediately threatening structures.

Water and fire retardant were applied from KCFD helicopter 408, with assistance from a DC-10 and other air resources. Currently 5 helicopters and 5 fixed wing crafts are assigned.

Numerous crews are in place to provide structure protection to the threatened areas. Fire crews are working diligently to try to control this fire. It has burned 1,100 acres and approximately 40 to 50 homes are at immediate risk.

The Fire evacuation center is located at Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec. The Post Fire is under a unified command with KCFD, BLM and USFS.

The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010 6:06 p.m.)—It appears the fire activity has rolled back away from the ridges near Frazier Park. See photo 5 in the photo slide show on this page, taken from Dylan Keenberg’s family home at the peak of Oakmont Trail in Frazier Park.
"This photo was taken about 5:40 p.m. In contrast to those taken in the valley, this photo shows the fire has mellowed on the ridge and is most active in a direction away from the town," Dylan writes.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 5:52 p.m.)—Assistance with animal evacuation: Dawn Beban called to say that the Mountain Communities SPCA is willing to help people who have evacuated with pets. The SPCA has crates and pens and water bowls. While they are not allowed into the evacuation area, they are willing to meet with evacuees. Please call the SPCA hotline at 245-3035 and speak with Robin Horowitz who will assign resources. The Tejon Ranch Equestrian Center has agreed to take evacuated horses.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 5:30 p.m.)—Kern County Fire Department Engineer Greg Powell said that by 5:11 p.m.1,100 acres had been burned, but no structures have been lost.

A DC10 aircraft with a 15,000-gallon capacity is aloft. It dumped retardant on the mountain ridges visible from Frazier Park School to stop the fire’s progress in that direction. As of 4 p.m., KCFD command had a count of 200 firefighters on the scene, "and growing." Resources are coming in from multiple agencies, including the state and surrounding counties.

"We will have a vehicle getting a GPS reading within this hour to update you about the size of the fire," Powell said.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 5:10 p.m.)—Residents from about 200 homes in Lebec, Chimney Canyon and O’Neil Canyon were asked to evacuate this afternoon. No evacuation from Frazier Park has been requested at this time. Residents are asked to simply be prepared. This is a checklist of preparations:
• ___Gather prescription medications, a three week supply.
•___ Keep inside-outside pets inside and have carriers prepared and ready to load. Have a week’s food and water supply in car.
•___ Prop a ladder against the house for firefighters, connect garden hoses to faucets and attach nozzles set on spray,
•___ Gather: Important documents, bank, IRS, trust, investment, insurance, birth certificates, medical records, credit and ATM cards, medications, prescription glasses, driver’s license, passport, computer backup files, address book, family photos, videos and heirlooms.
•___Gather cell phone and charger, personal toiletries, change of clothes, Put them in the car.
•___ Fuel all vehicles and keep tanks full
•___ Inventory home contents (consider videotaping); photograph the exterior of the house and landscaping if there is time.
• ___Smoke advisory: Those with asthma, cardiovacular or respiratory problems should avoid being exposed to smoke by staying indoors. They may wish to consider leaving the area until the smoke has cleared.

If an Evacuation Order Is Given:
___Carry gloves, a handkerchief to cover your face, ample supply of water, a flashlight and a portable radio

In order to avoid combustion from flying sparks:
___Inside: Close all interior doors, leave a light on in each room, remove lightweight curtains and other combustible materials from around the windows, close fire-resistant drapes, shutters and venetian blinds; turn off all pilot lights and move overstuffed furniture to the center of the room.
___Outside: Place patio furniture inside the house or garage. Close all exterior vents if possible, close all exterior doors and windows. Turn on outside lights. If there is time and if it is possible, cover windows, attic openings and vents with half-nch thick plywood, Fill trash cans and buckets with water where firefighters can find them as emergency water sources.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 4:45 p.m.)—An official notification has been prepared by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office asking Frazier Park residents to make household preparations in the case that evacuation is recommended. The official statement is: "Attention residents of Frazier Park, please make preparations to evacuate the area. If the fire gets closer, we will make notifications to leave the area if and when that is necessary."

Gary Meyer, publisher of The Mountain Enterprise, is at the fire command center and says, "It is amazing, but no homes have been lost."

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 4:20 p.m.)— "Be prepared," is the message being dispatched from Sgt. Mark Brown of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office to Frazier Park residents. He told The Mountain Enterprise just now that they will be making an announcement shortly that residents of Frazier Park will be hearing loudspeakers in their streets advising them to put things in order in case an evacuation order is issued. There is no evacuation recommendation at this time.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 4 p.m.)—Evacuation of animals is now being addressed by the Mountain Communities SPCA and Guy Shaw from Kern County Animal Control. Gita Nelson and Dawn Beban from the SPCA said they will help with those seeking to evacuate dogs and cats. They can be reached at 245-3035. Kern County Animal Control’s Shaw says they are dispatching animal carrier crates to the Frazier Mountain High School for use in evacuating animals. Of specific concern are about 100 cats at the Cause 4 Cats shelter in Lebec. At this time Lolette Robrahn has not yet agreed to evacuate them, according to Gita Nelson of the SPCA.  The Tejon Ranch equestrian center has said that they will provide shelter to evacuated horses.

Kern County Fire Department’s Sean Collins, from the command center at Lebec Road and Lebec Oaks (at the Mobli tanks), said that flames wil be visible from Frazier Park, "and it will be even more visible tonight," but that he still feels the fire will not make it over the ridges to that town.

California Highway Patrol and Kern County Sheriffs are restricting entry to the Lebec area. Residents are asked to stay away. The SPCA representative said they have enough volunteers at this time.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 3:50 p.m.)—Community reporter Chuck Noble from Los Padres Estates has evacuated to the Flying J parking lot.

"The fire is now heading west," Noble said, "That is a bad sign. it is up in the pine trees along the ridge and it is now following the ridge west [in the direction of] Frazier Park. They have a 727-size plane and they are dropping fire retardant."

Noble is taking photos of the firefighting efforts for The Mountain Enterprise. He says he is confident his home is not at risk at this time. "We are in the middle of the Los Padres Estates area with houses all around.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 3:24 p.m.)—The fire is heading northwest, and has covered about 750 aces as of 3:20 p.m. according to Kern County Fire Department spokesperson Sean Collins.

"This is a wind and terrain-driven fire. We want to make sure residents are out of there. Residents of O”Neill Canyon, Lebec and Chimney Canyon should evacuate," Collins said.

Krista Mutual Water Company has reported they have boosted power to their pumps and adequate water for fighting the fire should be available.

The evacuation center is Frazier Mountain High School, on Falcon Way, off of Peace Valley Road, south of the Pilot Flying J center.

Although flames and smoke are visible from the higher elevations of Frazier Park, Collins told The Mountain Enterprise that he does not see it progressing in that direction.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010, 2:53 p.m.)—The Kern County Fire Department has named Frazier Mountain High School as the evacuation center for those leaving Los Padres Estates and the O’Neil Canyon area because of a wildfire which began along Lebec Road across from the Lebec Post Office about 12:15 p.m.

About 120 firefighters from Kern County Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service "are aggressively fighting this fire with assistance from helicopters and other aircraft," according to Sean Collins, speaking for the KCFD.

Down in Lebec, on Frazier Mountain Park Road, the smoke has become thick and dark. There was unconfirmed concern that a house was burning, but it has now been reported that a stand of trees was the source. Across the mountains, flames are reported to be visible from some areas of Frazier Park. We will update this report with new information shortly.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug 24, 2:37 p.m.)—The Frazier Mountain Park Community Center on Park Drive (west of the post office) is open as a cooling center at this time, because of elevated temperatures in the region. Evacuees can go there if they need a place to be. Francis Ero, Business Manager for County Parks and Recreation said, "The cooling center at the park is open until 8 p.m., but I see no problem in extending that if it becomes necessary, so people can go there."

Russ Siebers, caretaker at the park, said he has a home in O’Neil Canyon that he is worried about. He said his boss is on the way to Frazier Mountain to allow Russ to leave.

Meanwhile, there is also radio chatter at this time about an evacuation center being set up at Frazier Mountain High School The Red Cross will notify us as soon as there is a confirmation.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 24, 1:59 p.m.)—Community Reporter Peter Mack says sheriff’s cruisers are roaming the Los Padres Estates valley area, using a loudspeaker to tell residents to leave for safety. He reported earlier that the smoke is thick near the ground. His home is located at Lancer and Gibson in the Los Padres Estates.

"My wife says there is a house above us that just got doused by the helicopter," Mack said. "We will go down to the road and see what happens. Usually these things just last a little while, but the wind is blowing pretty good at about 12 knots," he added.

The Red Cross has been contacted for information about evacuation facilities. They are making arrangements and will call back shortly. We will post the news as soon as it is available.

UPDATE (Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 1:49 p.m.)—Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft–so far unable to make drops in O’Neil Canyon due to high turbulence–may soon start making drops of water and retardant.

UPDATE (Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 1:40 p.m.)— A radio report saying Frazier Mountain High School was being evacuated is untrue. The school confirms that only students who live in Lebec were being released to parents because the buses cannot travel into many areas of Lebec.

UPDATE (Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 1:21 p.m.)—Kern County Sheriff’s Department is evacuating 175 to 200 homes in O’Neil Canyon. A radio report indicated that a woman called the fire department saying the "fire is at my back door."

UPDATE (Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 1:13 p.m.)—Evacuations are taking place in the area of North Drive, South Drive and Clear Canyon Road with firefighting resources now in Los Padres Estates.

LEBEC (Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 12:42 p.m.)—A fire has broken out on Lebec Road near North Drive. Evacuations have been ordered for all residents in homes near and above North Drive.

Los Padres Estates resident Chuck Noble called at 12:45 p.m. to report that smoke is coming over the hill into O’Neil Canyon. A reporter is at the scene.

Radio chatter indicates there may be five structures threatened at this time with a possible 20 more in path of the fire.

Two to three acres are reported to be currently involved, our reporter saying that it spans from No Name Road to North Drive and beyond. It is heading uphill to the west and north with resources moving into Los Padres Estates to meet it on the other side. Bulldozers, air support, strike teams and intercounty resources have been called.

This is part of the August 20, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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