Wildfire War on Grapevine

  • L.A. County sent massive air response to fight three simultaneous fires near Gorman.

    L.A. County sent massive air response to fight three simultaneous fires near Gorman.

Fires Erupt on Grapevine, Tejon Ranch

By G.Meyer and P. Hedlund

A war raged along the Grapevine and on Tejon Ranch during the last week of June with a rapid succession of multiple wildfires. All were confronted with a massive response of firefighters and air power from Kern County, Los Angeles County and the U.S. Forest Service. Kern County’s helicopter 407 will be permanently stationed at the base of the Grapevine in Mettler later this summer, for rapid response to mountain wildfires.

Here’s a brief summary of some of the reports posted at www.MountainEnterprise.com as events unfolded during a oneweek deluge of seven grass fires along the Grapevine.

On Friday, June 26 a 700-acre blaze at the northern edge of Tejon Ranch, near the Tejon Industrial Complex, was caused by arcing sparks from electrical lines. Significant air cover was deployed to keep that fire from rushing up the Grapevine into the populated canyons of Lebec.

On Sunday, June 28 three brush fires started about noon beside southbound I-5 near the Hungry Valley State OHV Park. Two Los Angeles City helicopters, two L.A. County helicopters, 200 firefighters and two fixed-wing tankers from CalFire were deployed to contain the 120-acre fire.

“Big rig trucks coming down the grade have [burning] particles from their brakes that come off [and] get into the brush along the side of the freeway,” LACFD Inspector Frederic Stowers said.

At 5:20 p.m. the same day, Sunday, June 28, the second Tejon Ranch fire in less than a week was reported. Sixty acres were burned in the Blue Ridge area of the ranch before 70 firefighters, three helicopters, four air tankers, one water tender and a bulldozer worked past midnight to bring the blaze under control.

Tejon Ranch resident Jim Lumsden emailed: “The flying I observed was just fantastic, considering the reputation that the Tehachapi mountains has for eating aircraft.”

On Wednesday, July 1 another 75 acres burned north of Castaic, near Pyramid Lake, backing up traffic on northbound I-5 for miles. Two lanes were reopened about 8:30 p.m. At 6 a.m. a third lane was restored. About 300 firefighters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, prison crews and the U.S. Forest Service fought the suspected arson blaze. An L.A. City Fire Dept. helicopter assisted.

On July 2 at 7:53 a.m. there was yet another grass fire near Laval Road, the third Tejon Ranch fire in a week.

Over the Fourth of July weekend there were six vehicle fires in the Grapevine area.

This is part of the July 10, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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