The Erskine Fire, California’s second-largest wildfire in 2016, caused two fatalities, destroyed 309 buildings, and scorched 47,864 acres in Kern County. Almost two and a-half years after the fire was fully contained on July 11, 2016, recovery efforts continue to progress slowly.
Of California Water Service’s (Cal Water) more than 5,200 customers in its Kern River Valley District, hardest hit were those in South Lake, Squirrel Valley, and Mountain Mesa near Lake Isabella. Although there was no damage to Cal Water’s pump stations, a few water main breaks were caused by heavy firefighting equipment driving throughout the area. And with the loss of electricity during the fire, the utility had to rely on auxiliary power for approximately 14 days.
Only about 20 percent of the charred region has recovered since July 2016. Some Cal Water customers are living in mobile homes or in FEMA trailers, while several have elected to sell their land. On a positive note, one developer is building eight rental duplexes in South Lake, and Mennonite Disaster Service, a volunteer network that responds to those affected by disasters, has constructed a new single-family dwelling.