By Elizabeth Mendia
Kern Valley Sun
The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate funding for the only County-funded “hotshot” rapid-response firefighting crew in the Kern River Valley. A press release from the Kern County Fire Department issued last week simply states “Rio Bravo Crew 7 will be unstaffed for 2020 due to budget constraints.”
“After multiple years of devastation from wildﬁres in California,” the press release continues, “We urge all to cultivate ﬁre safe habits. These habits include creating defensible space on your property, avoiding activities that could start a ﬁre, and signing up for emergency notiﬁcations at ReadyKern.com.”
With the hottest and driest part of the year looming, the decision to eliminate funding for the Rio Bravo Hotshot Crew for 2020 was met with apprehension by many on social media. “This is NOT the time to keep a hotshot crew unstaffed!” exclaims one resident on Facebook. Another states, “Do they (County) at least have a fuel crew, or did they get rid of them too?”
The Kern County Fire Department’s press release explains that other firefighting assets that are part of the Kern County Fire Department’s Air & Wildland program remain in place. These include helicopter, bulldozer crews, and other assets. “The decision was made after careful coordination with our partner agencies at the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service,” adds the press release.
The Bureau of Land Management maintains its own “hotshot crew” known as the Kern Valley Hotshots, which is not subject to County funding decisions.
For additional information regarding wildﬁre safety, residents are encouraged to visit kerncountyfire.org.