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A rash of wildfires in the last
two weeks has plagued the
region, causing numerous
evacuations, thousands of
acres burned, several homes
destroyed and ultimately the
declaration of Kern County as a
Three fires — the Bull fire
near Kernville and the West fire
in Tehachapi both of which
started July 26th, and the Crown
fire south of Palmdale three
days later — have destroyed
more than 32,000 acres and 36
“There was so much smoke
we really couldn’t tell just how
close it came, but it happened in
like five minutes. It was crazy,”
said Riverkern resident Kyle
Pinette, a witness to the Bull fire.
The Miners were not home when the fire nearly claimed their property. When they returned home to find
their front door kicked in and guns missing, they immediately reported a theft. As it turned out, the Forest
Service had kicked the door open, taken the guns, TV, family pictures and trophy fish, wrapped them all in
blankets and put them in the back of his pickup truck in front of the house, “because they thought our house
was going to burn to the ground.”
According to the Kern County Fire Department’s website, as of 8 a.m. Monday, the Bull fire was 95-
percent contained and had consumed 16,442 acres of vegetation and eight homes, with an estimated
containment date of Aug. 10.
Resources from the KCFD, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are actively working
the incident with 580 personnel. The Red Cross, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of Emergency
Services and California Highway Patrol are also assisting.
As of Monday, said BLM Public Information Officer Michelle Puckett, “Mountain Highway 99 has been
reopened, as well as Sherman Pass, but all the campgrounds will remain closed until the Sequoia
National Forest can complete necessary work to allow for public access.”
Basically, said Puckett, “They’re going to go in and determine what damages are in the campgrounds
because there were numerous campgrounds that were affected.” Those battling the fire will do any hazard
reduction work necessary to make sure it’s safe for people to camp there.
She added that rafting is still closed on the upper portion of the Kern River because of helitack crews
dipping into the river.
Puckett also expressed her appreciation to the people of Ridgecrest for their hospitality. “We would go
into local businesses … We were offering them information, and they’re like ‘No. Thank you, thank you,
thank you for being here. If there’s anything that you need …’ They welcomed us with open arms.”
At press time, the West fire was 100-percent contained at 1,658 acres and 23 structures lost, and the
Crown fire was 89-percent contained at 13,918 acres and five structures lost. According to Los Angeles
County Fire Department officials, another 2,300 were also threatened.
In an effort to help his new neighbor, Pinette said, “If anybody can reach in their pockets and help out, it
would really be so much appreciated. The devastation behind this is just amazing.”
A fund has been set up to help the Mazziottis, he said. Checks can be made to AltaOne FCU, P.O. Box
3553, Lake Isabella, CA 93240 (with “Mazziotti family fire relief fund” in the memo line).
Donations to help victims of the West and Bull fires may also be made to American Red Cross Kern
Chapter, P.O. Box 1226, Bakersfield, CA 93302-1226.
Both the Bull and West fires were determined to be human-caused. The West fire was reportedly ignited
by sparks from workers cutting metal. The Bull incident remains under investigation.
The Crown fire is also under investigation, an LAFD official said.
Videos of the fires’ destruction and interviews with Pinette, Weber and Miner can be viewed at
Rash of wildfires plagues region
Donations solicited to help those devastated by fire
By DAVID JOHNSON
News Review Staff Writer
A house on Bullrun Road in Riverkern lies in ruins, just 10 feet away from
Gene and Janice Miner’s home.
( click on picture for larger version )
As he continued to gather personal belongings, his property also began to catch fire, with those flames
quickly extinguished by firefighters.
Referring to his neighbors, the Mazziottis, who had moved in just a week earlier, Pinette added, “Their
garage went up, it was like matchsticks. It just went ‘poof,’ and we started scrambling. Their whole entire
life is just gone. It’s incredible.”
The Mazziotti family home was totally destroyed. The family did not have insurance.
Pinette’s neighbor, Sue Ellen Weber, also witnessed the fire’s fury. “The firefighters told us this morning
that this fire really came from the sky,” she said. “The fellow up there, he took his pool and just took a big
knife and slashed it, let the pool run all over the yard. It saved his house.”
Gene and Janice Miner escaped disaster by a mere 10 feet. His neighbor’s house was totally destroyed,
“and yet there’s not a burn mark anywhere on the side of my house,” said Gene. “God smiled on us, and
we thank the Lord and the firefighters, sheriffs.”
“All of a sudden it was raining fire — pine needles, leaves and stuff just falling from the sky.
It was just raining fire.”