Small Plane Crash In Tehachapi Sparks 3500-Acre Grass Fire

UPDATE (10:10 a.m.): About 3500 acres have burned, one home is a total loss, 400 firefighters are on site, 100 homes have been evacuated. The blaze is 0% contained.

TEHACHAPI (AP) — Residents of at least 100 homes were forced to flee after a small plane crashed and burst into flames, killing two people on board and igniting a fast-moving brush fire that burned early Monday near a California mountain community.

KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore Reports

One house burned to the ground after the single-engine Cessna 210 went down Sunday afternoon near Tehachapi south of Bakersfield, according to Kern County fire department spokesman Cary Wright.

Authorities did not know how many people were on the plane but two people were confirmed dead.

No injuries from the fire were reported.

“The terrain is steep, rugged. The wind is swirling. All the dry brush is a huge fuel source,” Wright said.

The blaze grew to 3,500 acres — nearly 5 1/2 square miles — amid dry, hot and windy conditions. About 600 firefighters, backed by 11 air tankers, were battle the blaze. Fire official Sean Collins said early Monday that it was at zero containment.

Crews were attacking the flames from above, running water-dropping aircraft continuously. Most of the ground crews were devoted to structure protection.

Wright said earlier in the evening that the fire in Blackburn Canyon was “growing by the minute,” adding that it shifted direction three times.

Officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for 100 homes under threat in Blackburn Canyon and the Mountain Meadows area.

Collins said that the blaze was still at about 3,500 acres, but he said there could be more evacuations later in the day.

The Red Cross set up an evacuation center at Jacobsen Junior High School in Tehachapi.

To the south, a wildfire along the main interstate between Southern California and Las Vegas that grew to 1,100 acres was 80 percent contained late Sunday.

The fire erupted in the center divider of Interstate 15 Friday at the start of the holiday weekend, forcing the closure of all lanes and snarling the getaway traffic. Nearly all lanes were reopened by Friday evening.

Fueled by steady winds and 90 degree temperatures the blaze jumped the freeway and burned chaparral in the hills that form the nearby San Bernardino National Forest and rural areas of San Bernardino County.

About 1,500 homes were evacuated Friday but all residents had been allowed to return home by the next day.

However, the flames destroyed two mobile homes and damaged two other structures.

Air quality officials predicted that smoke from the fire would cause problems for people with health sensitivities in the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain areas. The South Coast Air Quality Management District urged them to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • SokNoo Ramos

    Should be interesting to fgind out what caused the crash and if the high winds had an effect.


    good crash all cesspool cessna’s, nosey shlt-bags!!!!! they think they look down on people!!!!

  • John

    The pilot’s son said in an interview, that his dad and a friend were doing a flyby of a friends property. An eyewitness said the plane was orbiting the area, flew over a hill into a canyon and did not come out. The witness said the plane went over a ridge and expected to see the plane come back up, but the next thing he saw was the smoke from the crash site.

    The reason this crash occurred was because the pilot was buzzing the area, flying too low and not knowing what he was doing. Even though the guy owned the plane for 12 years that doesn’t mean he was a trained professional aviator. He was a rich guy with a neat toy.

    If you are flying low in mountainous terrain, in an area known for turbulence, you are playing with fire. I have flown through this same area in high powered military aircraft on low level training missions; I had plenty of power to overcome the down drafts that I knew would be in the area, especially on the downwind side of the hill tops. You could go over a hill top and all will seem fine, but once you crest the top on the leeward/downwind side you will get a severe down draft; these down drafts will descend at a greater rate than all general aviation aircraft are capable of climbing out of at max powers.

    Whenever I flew my general aviation aircraft over this same terrain, I always stayed at least 1000 ft. above the hill tops and I am not kidding. I have flown all over the world in military aircraft, flying low level military missions and the Tehachapi area had on average, some of the worse turbulence I have ever flown through. They don’t have all those windmills out there because the air is calm. Couple a windy area with thermal activity from the nearby desert and you have a recipe for significant turbulence.

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