FRESNO, California. – An electric line in a tree led to a devastating summer wildfire in central California, the death of an elderly couple and destroyed hundreds of homes, researchers said Thursday.
Insulation of the electric line rubbed the tree, and carried over a period of time, fall into the hot, molten material in the dry grass under that sparked the fire, officials said.
The fire drove a Lake Isabella hill prone to burning, said Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall. But this year, firefighters could not stop the fire, which eventually scorched 75 square miles, and the run of 280 homes in entangled in debris.
“This is one for the books,” Marshall said. “It’s not everything we ever want to occur.”
The fire led to the end of June in the community of Lake Isabella, an hour east of Bakersfield in the southern Sierra Nevada.
The conditions were ripe for a fire, said Marshall, noting that five years of drought had dried out the mountainous landscape covered with grass and dead trees. Wind and warm weather chased the flames, he said.
An older couple trying to escape the flames were overcome with smoke outside the house and killed. In other areas, mobile home residents rushed to safety through thick smoke and roaring flames.
“Everything they had was destroyed,” Marshall said. “They literally escaped with the clothes on your back.”
Fighting the fire cost $23 million, a figure which Marshall said does not take into account the property lost by hundreds of residents, some of which still homeless.
Federal officials come to new housing for 27 residents in a reconstruction process that Marshall said, will take time, the officials said. Various organisations contributed to the research for which the fire of the cause, the officials said.
Gabe Garcia, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said his agency will next determine who is responsible, and if criminal charges should be filed.
The fire began on private property and public officials, not the name of the owner. Garcia said that the determination of the next steps in the research can take weeks or longer.