Environment & Science

Erskine Fire: Residents start to return home as many communities still don't have power

File: A photo from the Kern County Fire Department shows a wildfire that broke out late Thursday, June 23, 2016, quickly tearing through dozens of homes and prompting evacuations.
File: A photo from the Kern County Fire Department shows a wildfire that broke out late Thursday, June 23, 2016, quickly tearing through dozens of homes and prompting evacuations.
Kern County Fire Department

People affected by the Erskine Fire are returning home now — or at least trying to, after more than 200 structures, including many homes, were destroyed.

Mandatory evacuations ended Wednesday. Communities were reopened throughout the day and local residents allowed back with ID. Still, many neighborhoods don't have power, while others don't have drinkable water, Kern County Fire Capt. Mike Nichols told KPCC. Residents trying to return home are being given public health recommendations before being allowed to return home, Nichols said.

There are emergency personnel walking the area, Nichols said, answering questions local residents may have. There is also a transitional center to help with those returning or who have lost their homes. Nichols said that the transitional center is meant to help people answer the question "Where do I go now?" and get them to the next step to move forward in their lives.

"Everybody's at a different state. Some people have lost their home, so their questioning may be different than someone who has not lost their home, but wants to know where I can get food, or when my power's going to be up," Nichols said.

Officials hope to bring in local agencies to provide assistance, Nichols said, but they don't know yet what assistance is going to be needed.

Some communities are expected to regain power by the end of the week, while others may not have it until the end of the weekend, Nichols said.

"SoCal Edison had restored power to a large percentage of the customers, and then we had a storm come through yesterday, and a couple of the transformers were actually hit by lightning, so that set back the efforts they were making to get power restored," Nichols said.

Getting power restored depends on whether the weather cooperates, Nichols said, as another lightning strike or thunderstorms would keep repair workers from working during that time.

Shelters run by the Red Cross remain open at St. Jude's Catholic Church and Kernville Elementary School.

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