Campus fire thought to be caused by arson

James Macias, Reporter

A fire set by a suspected arsonist early March 1 at Bakersfield College severely damaged the fence and plant life along the main campus entrance off of Haley Avenue.

No one was hurt and the main entrance was re-opened by about 7:20 a.m. Efforts to assess the environmental impact and repair the damage are currently in the planning stages, with an arborist’s report as well as contractors bidding on the work. Clean up and restoration is not expected to take long.

The flames started at about 6 a.m. on March 1 in some bushes near the base of the fence and evidently spread along its length and up into the nearby trees, leaving a broad swath of literally scorched earth.

The fire department responded and was able to put the fire out in short order. No injuries were reported.

The BC department of Public Safety released a statement that stated, in part: “The fire department classified this as an arson and an arson investigator arrived to file a report. He also advised that an arsonist has been driving around the east side of Bakersfield this morning setting fires to bushes, trash cans, etc.“

Don Birdwell, manager of the BC Department of Maintenance and Operations, confirmed that the fire was thought to be the work of a habitual arsonist who is active in east Bakersfield, or was at the time of the fire.

“Arson lit up the bushes there (gestures with his hand) right here at the Haley entrance. It wasn’t an isolated incident. The fire department said they already put out several alley fires, so somebody was going through this side of town lighting fires,” said Birdwell.

He went on to outline his department’s response to the incident, as well as its ongoing efforts to clean up the mess and repair the damage.

“We are already working on it,” said Birdwell. “Takes a little bit of time to get things going, though. We have had an arborist come out and check out the trees, and we are waiting for that report, and also regarding the shrubs and stuff on that fence line… and had three companies come out now working on quotes to give us for the (repairs to the) fence line and stuff. It just takes time to get all this stuff together.”