Wildfire Season in Calif. Off to Harrowing Start


     BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) — As firefighters mopped up the biggest California wildfire of the year Tuesday, hundreds were pulled from the deadly Erskine blaze to fight a new 1,700-acre fire, also in Kern County.
     The Deer Fire sprang up near the small rural community of Bear Valley Springs in the Tehachapi Mountains Friday afternoon, quickly burning 500 acres of dry grass and dead trees. By Sunday it had burned more than 1,700 acres east of Arvin, a farming town 15 miles southeast of Bakersfield, the county seat.
     More than 1,000 firefighters, many coming straight from the Erskine blaze, battled the Deer Fire over the weekend, assisted by firefighters from Anaheim.
     The Deer Fire was 80 percent contained Tuesday evening, with no structures damaged, the Kern County Fire Department said. Still mopping up Tuesday were 110 engines, 29 hand crews, four bulldozers, five water-tenders, and eight helicopters.
     Authorities have not yet determined what started the Deer Fire or its deadly cousin, the Erskine Fire, which began on June 23 and burned 48,019 acres of steep, rugged terrain south of Lake Isabella and destroyed 200 houses. An elderly couple died near their home Friday, June 24, apparently of smoke inhalation.
     The Erskine Fire was 95 percent contained Tuesday, with 146 firefighters patrolling the perimeter and putting out spot fires. The cost of fighting the Erskine Fire so far is estimated as $22.6 million.
     A wildfire is considered contained when a fire line has been dug around it, down to mineral soil.

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