BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Kern County fire investigators are investigating a strange series of fires that have occurred near Bakersfield Country Club this week – tree fires, half a dozen of them within about 12 hours on Monday – including some in broad daylight .
Cypress trees in particular, those unmistakably lush green trees that often tower over neighborhoods.
Cypresses and bushes come in many varieties, but one thing they have in common is this – they are among the most flammable.
That fact was underscored on Monday when a series of fires near Bakersfield Country Club destroyed dozens of cypress trees – among other species burned.
The consequences were heartbreaking.
Kern County’s fire fighters don’t say much more about the fires – they investigate the cause or causes.
At this point, the county fire department spokesman Andrew Freeborn would be half-jokingly admitting that no lightning strikes had been reported in the area. But whether investigators found evidence of an accelerator such as gasoline for arson, he said he had no information.
But that’s not a joke. Half a dozen homeowners not only lost trees – in some cases 15 feet tall – they almost lost their homes. This Country Club Drive homeowner, unwilling to speak on camera, lost several cypress trees and part of his wooden shingle roof. He and another man replaced singles on Thursday.
Heather Spring, who lives on College Avenue, ran out the door with a naked 1-year-old in her arms after noticing that the 10 cypress trees her father planted 47 years ago were on fire.
She said the house she shares with her husband, young child and father has suffered smoke damage and a desert tortoise was badly injured.
“Monday afternoon around 1 p.m. I was sitting in my back yard and saw some smoke coming from the front,” she said, “and I noticed that one of my cypress trees was completely devoured. But when I got to the house, the second tree was lit. When I was grabbing my baby, the third one went up. So it was like matches. “
Her next-door neighbor, Randy Behill, had to keep hosing down the roof of his garage – just yards from the inferno – until the firefighters arrived. He saved his house, but not this car parked in the driveway. Parts of it have melted.
“The night before they built a house here in Braeburn and on Country Club Drive was at noon,” Behill said. “The same, the same trees. Just stupid people. Carefree people. “
Behill said he heard speculation that the fires may have been started by people who created videos which they then posted on Tiktok, a social media site that has 800 million viewers worldwide – and in fact fire officials say as far away as England and New Zealand, arsonist fame by alleged Tiktok was responsible for fires in these countries.
Attempts to contact Tiktok have been unsuccessful, but USA Today quoted spokespersons for the social media site as saying that videos depicting dangerous or criminal activity will be removed immediately as soon as they are detected.
Who lit the cypress trees near Bakersfield Country Club? Kern County’s fire investigators are eager to find out.