Over the last 12 months, Orange County has seen less than half of the normal monthly rainfall. In May of this year, we received less than 5% of normal precipitation, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Extreme drought conditions are expected to persist or intensify through the summer. These conditions have brought an earlier “fire season” to Southern California, with local fire watch groups deploying in January, March, April and May of this year.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center indicates a higher probability of warmer-than-normal conditions in Southern California through August, and above-normal wildland fire potential is predicted by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). In these conditions, watching out for suspicious or irresponsible activity becomes even more critical. Several groups — including Fire Safe Council of East Orange County Canyons, Great Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council and Rancho Mission Viejo Land Stewards — organize and deploy fire watch volunteers during Red Flag Warnings issued by NWS to help prevent wildfire. The largest of these groups is now the Orange County Fire Watch program.