4-Square-Mile Shirley Fire 50 Percent Contained; Evacuations Lifted

shirly-fire

Smoke from the Shirley Fire towers over treetops in a photo posted June 16, 2014, on the Kern County Fire Department's Facebook page.

A wildfire burning near Lake Isabella was 50 percent contained Monday evening after spread more than 4 square miles and  prompting the temporary evacuation of hundreds of homes and closing roads in an area of Kern County with many popular recreation spots.

The Shirley Fire broke out Friday evening near Alta Sierra, about 35 miles northeast of Bakersfield (map), and was spread by high winds, with embers being thrown up to 300 feet, according to the Kern County Fire Department.

By Monday morning, it had consumed about 2,200 acres and was 10 percent contained, according to a post on the interagency wildfire website InciWeb. It was expected to spread north and east, toward the community of Wofford Heights and the northern part of Lake Isabella.

On Monday evening, the area of the fire was updated to 2,646 acres, but containment had grown to 50 percent.

Nearly 1,700 firefighters and other personnel were working to put the blaze out.

Shifting winds, high temperatures and very dry brush due to prolonged drought had created challenging conditions for firefighters as the blaze spread and moved closer to residential areas, according to InciWeb.

Air crews were working around the clock to battle the spreading flames. The firefight had cost $4.2 million as of Monday morning.

The blaze jumped containment lines on Sunday, when authorities noted “unseasonal fire behavior.” On Monday, the Fire Department reported on Facebook that good progress was made on the south and west flanks.

One thousand homes were threatened, as were Southern California Edison power lines and communication facilities, in addition to many trees in the Sequoia National Forest, according to the InciWeb post.

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A map shows the fire’s spead in pink as of June 16, 2014. (Credit: Sequoia National Forest via InciWeb)

More than 500 homes were evacuated since Saturday evening in the Wofford Heights area, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Evacuations were lifted Monday night.

Three homes had been destroyed, and one damaged. Two of the structures appeared to have been abandoned, according to authorities.

Heavy smoke was drifting throughout the Kern River Valley, a popular recreation area. The burn area included land in the Sequoia National Forest and private property, a perimeter map showed.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Portions of the following National Forest roads were closed:

  • Rancheria Road (25S15)
  • Wagy Flat Road (25S02)
  • Sawmill Road (26S03)
  • Alder Creek Road (25S04)
  • Highway 155 at Wofford Heights Boulevard