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Air National Guard helps battle Kern County fires

September 12, 2011 | 10:44 am

A fire helicopter over Highway 58 in Kern County on Sept. 10, 2011
An Air National Guard C130 transport plane loaded with fire retardant has joined the battle to extinguish wildfires that have been burning in southern Kern County, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Lightning strikes ignited several small grass-fed fires in eastern Kern County near Tehachapi and in an area five miles southeast of Arvin.

Altogether, the nine fires have burned nearly 31,000 acres since Saturday, officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The Keene Complex fires near Tehachapi are 92% contained but firefighters are having a tougher time extinguishing the much larger Comanche Complex blaze near Arvin, according to CalFire.

Fire activity increased Sunday afternoon and moved toward the Stallion Springs area, prompting a evacuation alert. The fires, 30% contained, are still threatening 2,300 structures, officials said.

CalFire asked the Air National Guard to activate a C130 on Sunday, said Ashley Ramirez, a spokeswoman at the Port Hueneme base. The plane can drop up to 3,000 gallons of retardant and has made at least three drops so far, Ramirez said.

Another National Guard unit near Sacramento is sending three Chinook and two Blackhawk helicopters to aid in the firefighting effort, Ramirez said.

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-- Catherine Saillant

Photo: A fire helicopter makes a water drop Saturday on a brush fire caused by lightning strikes along California 58 in Kern County. Credit: Gene Blevins / Reuters

 

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