Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) is launching work funded by a three-year grant from the California Department of Conservation under the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program (RFFC). The grant will allow IRC to expand its collaborative wildfire prevention efforts, in particular working with the County of Orange Area Safety Task Force (COAST).
“We’re thrilled to have received this grant on behalf of the regional collaboration and COAST,” said Michael O’Connell, IRC President & Chief Executive Officer. “The purpose of the grant is to work with regional partners to develop coordinated programs and projects to reduce the risk of wildfire, both on our precious local wildlands and in surrounding communities.”
Over the last 20 years, frequent large wildfires driven by Santa Ana winds have become a nearly constant threat in Orange County. In the last two years alone, nearly 30,000 acres have burned, causing significant damage to both property and the health of native wildlands. Historically, large fires burned every 70 to 100 years in the region. Now, with dramatically increasing wildfire ignitions, catastrophic fires re-occur every 7 to 10 years.
The RFFC grant will enable IRC and COAST to improve their efforts to prevent ignitions during Santa Ana winds and work to make communities more resilient to wildfire through hardening structures and improving maintenance of strategic fuel modification zones. The COAST working group has developed an Action Plan of priorities and the RFFC grant will help develop projects based on these priorities that can access major implementation funding coming from the state to reduce wildfire risk.
The RFFC program is a California Department of Conservation program, encouraging active partnerships throughout the state to reduce the threat of wildfire. The goal of the program is to increase regional capacity to prioritize, develop, and implement projects to improve the health and wildfire resilience of wildfire prone landscapes throughout California.
“Irvine Ranch Conservancy is one of our new grant recipients in 2022,” said Kealiʻi Bright, Assistant Director at the Department of Conservation. “COAST is a terrific example of regional collaboration on wildfire and we are excited about the potential of this funding to catalyze their Action Plan for Orange County.”
Convened in 2014 by the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), COAST is an unprecedented collaboration of more than 24 agencies, fire departments, landowners and other organizations working together to reduce the risk of wildfire in our region.
“Orange County has experienced a dramatic increase in the frequency of major wildfires over the years,” said Brian Fennessy, OCFA Fire Chief. “The only way to effectively reduce this threat is for everyone to take responsibility for cohesive, shared solutions. COAST is a national model of how key stakeholders working together can have a big impact.”
“IRC is excited to continue working with our partner network to develop programs and projects to prevent ignitions, improve community safety, and reduce wildfire risk to our communities and wildlands,” said O’Connell.
For more information about the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and wildfire prevention efforts on the Landmarks, visit IRConservancy.org.