Early detection leads to rapid Ant Fire response

Early detection leads to rapid Ant Fire responseThe Kern River Ranger District of Sequoia National Forest noted that early detection of the Ant Fire, reported to officials in the evening of June 13, led to a rapid response to the blaze, which had been 75 percent contained by Monday.

The 10-acre fire broke out in the “Ant Canyon” recreational site, located along Mountain 99, approximately 12 miles north of Kernville.

Although officials have not concluded their investigation, they believe the cause was human.

“For firefighter and public safety, we ask the public to slow down and use caution when driving through the area.”

The fire was reported by a Forest Service patrolman in the area. Initial size up showed the fire to be on both sides of the road, and both sides of the river. The fire was burning in grass and brush, and making runs, with a moderate rate of spread. Winds were 3-5 and gusting out of the north (down canyon, which is typical for this area, and time of day).

Immediate response from ground and air support, coupled with interagency assistance, aided firefighter’s ability to slow the forward rate of spread by early evening. Air tankers dropped retardant while helicopters dipped water from the river for bucket drops.

Cooperators included the Forest Service, (both Kern River and Western Divide Ranger Districts), U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, CA. Highway Patrol, Tulare County Fire Department, Kern County Fire Department, and Sierra South rafting company. Resources assigned were 2 Helicopters, 2 air tankers, 1 air attack, 2 water tenders, 8 engines, 5 hand-crews, 3 patrols, 2 water tenders, fire investigators, and archaeologists and, multiple fire management overhead. Over 100 fire personnel were assigned the first night.

Evacuation of Ant Canyon was initiated. Mountain 99 was closed for fire equipment and personnel on the road, investigation work, and the helicopters utilizing Mtn. 99 as a landing zone. Campers were asked to leave their personal camping equipment and take refuge on the road. After flights were shut down for the evening, campers were allowed to go back to their sites and pack up their belongings, readying themselves to leave when the road opens. The area has no cell service and this left many people cut off from communications with their families and friends.

Sierra South Rafting Company, has been providing shuttling service for firefighter and suppression equipment access to the portion of the fire on the west side of the river.

Story First Published: 2020-06-15