Fire nearly contained but victims still in need of assistance

Veronica Morley, Reporter

Several fires have consumed the grounds throughout Kern County this past summer.

On June 23 at 3:51 p.m., the Erskine Fire erupted off of Erskine Creek Road near Lake Isabella burning over 48,000 acres and destroying almost 300 homes in the South Lake community.

The Cedar Fire began on Aug. 16 at 4:30 p.m. just east of Glennville. It has burned over 29,000 acres and is still burning with a 98 percent containment status as of Sept. 5.

Red Cross and other emergency services are working to help with disaster relief and long-term aid.

“When the fire exploded, it did just that, it exploded, causing this wall of flame,” said Georgianna Armstrong, emergency service manager of the Kern County Fire Department Office of Emergency Services, in regards to the Erskine Fire.

Armstrong is working alongside the state to provide long-term housing and aid to the victims of the Erskine Fire.

When the fire first commenced, Red Cross provided temporary shelters, but these have been closed since early July.

“Since then, people have been scrambling day by day, not only did they lose their homes, but their possessions, their vehicles,” said Armstrong.

Out of the homes lost during the fire, only 200 were covered by insurance, leaving almost 100 home owners vulnerable.

“Many of these people are elderly, disabled, or veterans who either could not afford insurance or did not qualify,” commented Armstrong, who hopes to work alongside the state to provide mobile housing units for those individuals.

Exact details about these units are still being discussed and a contract is in the works. The county is working to provide septic systems for the units and the exact timeline and costs of these projects is unknown. As Armstrong said, “We’re building the plane as we’re flying it.”

The hope of the county is that the state will provide majority of the funds while they perform most of the work.

There are other organizations, such as private non-profits, working to help raise funds as a parallel lane of assistance to the state.

Since the Cedar Fire began it has caused the evacuation of several communities. As of Aug. 26, the total cost of containment has been $27.7 million. Red Cross has provided shelters at First Baptist Church of Lake Isabella and Granite Hills High School in Porterville.