Wildfires are among the most destructive events that can occur in urban wildlands. Over the past 20 years, Orange County has seen an increase in major wildfire events, causing significant damage to local communities and wildlands. Irvine Ranch Conservancy, along with its partners OC Parks, City of Irvine, City of Newport Beach and Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), are helping to reduce the number of catastrophic wildfires in local communities with the Orange County Fire Watch program.
In 2020, Orange County communities experienced three major wildfires that burned over 30,000 acres and forced more than 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes. The Fire Watch program has 300 dedicated volunteers who donate their time to reducing catastrophic wildfires through education, early reporting and deterrence.
“The volunteers are a critical component of the Orange County Fire Watch program,” said Tony Pointer, Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s Fire Watch Manager. “With their help monitoring on the land and virtually, we are able to help reduce the number of wildfires that start and stop fire spread by quickly reporting smoke and other signs of fire.”
Irvine Ranch Conservancy and OCFA train volunteers and staff to deploy to specific locations determined by fire spread research, historical ignition data, and participant safety requirements. Deployment occurs on Red Flag Warning days, Santa Ana wind events, or in other special circumstances. Fire Watch volunteers are also trained to monitor for signs of wildfire virtually with real-time SCE Alert Wildfire Cameras from the Operations Center in Irvine or from their own home.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy and Fire Watch encourages Orange County residents to be wildfire ready this year with wildfire preparedness tips from OCFA. Simple acts such as remaining vigilant during Red Flag Warnings, eliminating wildfire hazards near homes, vegetation management, knowing when to evacuate and having a plan can help keep local communities and wildlands safe, as well as help first responders successfully execute their job duties.
To learn more about how to prepare for a wildfire event, visit OCFA.org/RSG and watch a video about wildfire preparedness on YouTube with more helpful tips. Orange County residents are also encouraged to sign up for emergency notifications on AlertOC.org.
For more information about the Orange County Fire Watch program and Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, visit LetsGoOutside.org.