Residents of sparsely-settled Sierra communities in Tulare County were urged Thursday to evacuate as the Cedar Fire continued to spread toward them, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said.
The fire, which broke out Tuesday in Kern County east of Alta Sierra, had spread to 9,500 acres and was only 5 percent contained as of 8 p.m. Thursday. It is being battled by 935 fire personnel.
The Tulare County communities urged to evacuate include Portuguese Meadow, Panorama Heights, Poso Park, and Sugarloaf Village.
Tulare County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Teresa Douglass said hundreds of residents are being urged to evacuate, and deputies were going door to door to notify them.
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The American Red Cross of the Central Valley announced that an evacuation center has been opened at Granite Hills High School, 1701 E. Putnam Ave in Porterville. The Red Cross of Kern County opened an evacuation center Tuesday in Wofford Heights.
Some Tulare County mountain roads are closed, including Old Stage Road at Jack Ranch Road, Mountain Road 9 below Balance Rock in Posey and 24S16 Forest Service Road above Sugarloaf and Mountain 50 Road, Douglass said.
The fire is growing rapidly, fueled by dead trees in the densely forested area.
Because the Erskine Fire in Kern County, which burned nearly 50,000 acres, destroyed hundreds of homes and killed two people, spread so rapidly earlier this summer, officials are not waiting to urge residents to evacuate, said Cindy Thill, a fire information spokeswoman for the Kern River Ranger District.
“The Erskine Fire showed fire behavior that no one had seen in 30 years,” she said. “If the wind shifts, we’re in trouble.”
The Cedar Fire is being driven by topography and large numbers of dead trees, victims of the drought and bark beetle infestation, Thill said. The trees, which can fall unexpectedly, are posing hazards for firefighters.
Bee staff reporter Kelsey Grey contributed to the story.