A brush fire likely ignited by lightning in Kern County and burning close to Interstate 5 has grown to 2,300 acres and was 20% contained as of Thursday morning, officials said.
“Our concern today is if it continues to move toward the west, toward I-5,” said Kern County Fire Capt. Andrew Freeborn, the agency’s public information officer. “Some portions of the fire are within a couple hundred feet of the freeway. … We’re trying to keep it from going to the Grapevine, we don’t want travel impacted.”
Right now, he said the Thunder fire — located southeast of Interstate 5 and Edmonston Pumping Plant Road — has cast a shroud of smoke around the freeway.
The fire grew by about 500 acres overnight, but crews were able to increase containment by about 10%, according to the Kern County Fire Department.
Emergency crews responded to multiple fires started by lightning Wednesday after extreme weather brought by monsoonal moisture swept across the region, but the Thunder fire appears to be the only one that remains burning.
Lightning on Wednesday also fatally struck a woman and her two dogs in Pico Rivera, where they were out walking when severe storms hit.
Freeborn said officials in Kern County are hopeful Thursday’s weather cooperates so firefighters can further increase containment of the fire.
“Yesterday’s conditions were not favorable for firefighting in the least,” Freeborn said. “Not only did we have all the lightning, … but that storm produced really high winds and we still had really high temperatures.”
He said they recorded up to 30 mph sustained winds Wednesday, but forecasts are looking more favorable for Thursday. His team is monitoring another weather system that could affect the area, though.
“Any time you have a weather front that moves through, you’re going to have winds that come with that, so we’re watching it very carefully,” Freeborn said.
He said the terrain around the fire — much of it steep with thick brush — is also making it difficult for firefighters. About 250 firefighters remain in the field.
“It’s a lot of hard work and really steep terrain,” Freeborn said. “Fire efforts right now are still focused on getting the fire stopped, getting it contained.”
It’s unlikely the agency will be able to determine the cause of the fire until it’s fully contained, he said.