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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The ominous glow of fire over Kernville: Kern Valley Healthcare district hospital quiet

Long Night for Kernville residents and surrounding areas

As what is being called now, "The Bull Fire" still threatens homes surrounding the town of Kernville tonight, July 27, at midnight, and the Forest service and Fire officials saying that at least six homes have been destroyed, but more structures may be involved.
The fire started at 1:46 yesterday with firefighters arriving on the scene as three to five acres were burning. Although it has been reported that more than 15 types of air support were used within the first two hours, and hundreds of firefighters were on scene, the fire was not able to be controlled.
Eight hours later the reports are that it has spread quickly and tonight more than 4500 acres are currently burning.
There is zero containment at this hour as the ability to defend the fire by air stopped tonight but is due to start up once day light resumes in the morning.
In the meantime, ground crews will be trying to hold off this fire until morning, when they can resume air support.
Camp Owens was evacuated and it was reported that at least 125 children at the facility had to be relocated.
Many of Kernvilles residents have been told to leave and reports are that the Senior center in Lake Isabella is taking in people in the potential path, though it is reported the fire first jumped the river earlier yesterday and right now is unpredictable.
Currently, the fire departments are reporting that they have almost 500 firefighters on the scene and "strike forces" to try and protect more structures from becoming involved.

The ominous glow could be seen all around the valley and some people could be seen standing outside this evening watching the scene through the pall of smoke over the popular tourist town. Roads are closed off as emergency vehicles need to come and go, so residents need to be aware there may be delays or complete inaccessibility to certain areas right now.

The Kern Valley Healthcare District hospital, across the lake from the fire, was quiet tonight, but said they were receiving hourly updates from the public health department regarding the situation.

No one in administration was on hand to give an update as to the hospital's participation in helping residents regarding the fire, and what sort of aide that might be, but several staff members said that there had been no cases treated due to injury from the fire at the hospital as far as they knew.

Dr. Gregory Crawford, an ER physician, came out to explain to me that the hospital does not go to the scene that the Red Cross and other agencies set up emergency provisions and that "they have enough resources up there to handle it."

As to a broader picture the hospital plays in local emergencies such as this fire or any natural disaster, I'll attempt to get a response tomorrow from the administration.

The hospital ER, nearly empty, doors closed to the offices, and a handful of staff manning the acute care unit, it almost seemed as if nothing was burning a half hour away.

It is unknown if more staff were called in or were on stand by to handle what could turn into a severe situation as roads are blocked as personnel continue to battle the blaze.

Tonight, there had been a dinner for the Hospital Foundation, which raises money for the hospital through such events as the annual Heartwalk and Peddler's Faire, earlier in the evening, which was not cancelled due to the fire.

The rapidly spreading fire being across the massive man made lake, was no threat to the hospital itself, but the Kern Valley Healthcare District as a public facility, serves all the communities around Lake Isabella and seemed to be out of touch with the severity of the situation tonight.

There has been an unconfirmed report that local doctor from the Rural Health Clinic, Dr. Jack Nadler's house was in the path of the fire, but his family was on vacation, and no more information is available.

This is both fire season and a fire prone area, and I'm sure long time residents have not forgotten the McNally fire which charred almost 150,000 acres and was not fully contained for more than a month.

Then a freak storm came through dropping record amounts of rain which caused burned branches and debris to fill up the river and overflowing onto the banks, polluting the region for many years.

A plan was considered as to how to deal with future situations, and it will be interesting to see what was learned from that fire.

Only a week ago firefighters fought the Caliente fire rescuing homes from ruin, but that fire never reached the proportions this current Kernville situation has developed into in a very short period of time.

Fire is never certain so tonight residents of the Kern River area should be staying vigilant as there is currently no air support and firefighters are in dry, rugged terrain tonight trying to save lives and property.

The public health department is alerting people that in case of problems with breathing as the smoke remains thick, either call the hospital at 760-379-2681 or 911.

For more information on the fire or to try and locate family or friends in the fire area, call 760-376-3781.

I'll update tomorrow and our prayers go out to the residents of Kernville tonight.

I will check in with the animal shelter to see what role they are playing as horses and pets have been evacuated but sometimes end up missing. The South Lake Animal Shelter located on the 178, (760-378-1131) as well as the Kern County Animal control, whose trucks could be seen on the road tonight. (760-375-3446) Bakersfield Animal Control (661-326-3647).

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