Stagecoach Fire Still Burning Strong

Photos courtesy of Christine Hess
Thick plumes of smoke drift up from the mountains as firefighters try to contain the fire.

By Elizabeth Mendia
Kern Valley Sun

The devastating Stagecoach fire burst into being on August 3, 2020, in Havilah, destroying 12 homes and charring 7,760 wildland acres. Hundreds of firefighters and hand crews have been battling the blaze, aided by helicopters and fixed-wing craft. The fire was 64 percent contained as of Monday morning.

“Containment on the fire continues to increase as crews reinforce lines and cool off interior hot spots,” the US Forest Service reported in an update provided to the Sun, “The focus of tonight’s efforts will again be holding the fire within containment lines and securing structures threatened by the fire.” “… Fuels are critically dry, near record low levels,” the Forest Service added.

The cause of the fire, which in addition to the homes has also destroyed 25 other outbuildings or structures, is still under investigation.
Residents evacuated from the area were directed to an emergency shelter set up by the Red Cross at site of the former K-Mart in Tehachapi.

Wendy Kraus-Smith was among the residents who lost their homes to the fire. Her home of 20 years was destroyed on August 3. She escaped the fire with her four children and two of her three dogs, KGET in Bakersfield reported last week, but one of her dogs was lost to the fire.

Residents of the Kern River Valley took to social media to offer support. ““….I have truck and trailer, water, and modest acre for any type of emergency storage or camping. I’m sure I can assist in other ways. Stay strong,” said DaveTruelove of Squirrel Valley on Facebook. Nearly 200 persons responded in support of Truelove’s efforts.

Kern County Animal Shelter announced that they had activated a disaster team and set up a temporary emergency shelter at the Tehachapi Education Center at the corner of Tehachapi Blvd and Snyder Ave.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters and support teams, including 27 seven fire crews, have been assigned to the fire. Hotshot crews from as far away as northern Mendocino County and Beckwourth, California were seen staging at the command center at Kern Valley High School when the Sun staff visited on Friday, along with the Arrowhead Hotshot crew from the Grant Grove area of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. Twenty-one engines from near and far have been committed to the blaze.