California is suffering its fifth straight year of severe drought – when considering Orange County’s hotter-than-average temperatures, dry conditions, and recent fires such as the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park fire, the Sand fire in L.A., and the Blue Cut fire in San Bernardino County, the need for public support to lessen the risk of wildfire is greater than ever.
The natural cycle for fires in Southern California and the Landmarks should be every 50 to 100 years. When the cycle falls in this natural pattern, wildland fires help rejuvenate the soil, reduce dangerous fuels, and create diversity of habitats. The cycle for fires today is every 10 to 15 years – more than five times the historical frequency – due to accidental or intentional human causes and drought. The Landmarks' ecosystem relies on a stable habitat to thrive, and the accelerated rate of wildfires is disruptive to the open space and native animals that live in the wildlands.
When increased amounts of wildfires break out, they cause immediate damage to the land but they also affect the environment long term. After wildfires are extinguished, many native species do not have enough time to recover and reproduce. This threatens plant life unique to the area and increases the risk that non-native plants and weeds will overpower native species. Invasive plants can grow faster and distribute more seeds than native ones, and consequently die off more quickly and act as kindling for wildfires. The influx of invasive plant life feeds a cycle that’s a long-term danger to the Landmarks and the urban areas surrounding them.
Landowners and partner organizations offer many stewardship programs on the open space to help remove invasive plants, which in turn supports the efforts of Orange County Fire Watch. The Fire Watch program is vital to the safety of the Landmarks, and volunteers are always needed to be stewards and watchdogs of the land. To learn more about becoming a Fire Watch Volunteer, click here. To learn how to protect your home from flying embers caused by wildland fires, visit OCFA’s Ready, Set, Go! Program at ocfa.org/RSG/HomeHardening, and for more information about the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, visit LetsGoOutside.org.