At the helm of the Fire Watch program is Fire Watch Manager Tony Pointer. In partnership with OC Parks, City of Irvine, City of Newport Beach, and Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), Tony is responsible for the recruitment and training of Fire Watch volunteers, the deployment of volunteers during Red Flag Warnings, and Fire Watch participation in community engagements such as safety fairs, partner activities and presentations. Tony is also responsible for safety administration at Irvine Ranch Conservancy, which includes providing regular weather updates to staff, administering weather closures on the Landmarks, and facilitating safety trainings, documentation and communications for IRC staff.
“Fire Watch is not a one-person gig,” said Tony. “I would not be able to perform my duties without the assistance of the volunteers and staff. The volunteers are the force multiplier to perform the tasks of Fire Watch and engage with the public to spread awareness about wildfires. Without the assistance of the rest of the staff, my job would be much more difficult."
According to Tony, Fire Watch and safety at IRC can be a constantly changing environment as new, unforeseen challenges arise.
“Well before fire season began this year, the coronavirus presented unexpected circumstances that required all IRC staff and volunteers to adjust almost every aspect of their activities,” said Tony. “Part of my safety responsibilities is to contribute to the safety protocols and procedures to assist with keeping IRC staff healthy while continuing operations.”
This year, the Fire Watch program has expanded into the “Virtual Fire Tower” as volunteers had to shelter at home. The Fire Watch network continues to grow every year with additional organizations receiving Fire Watch training and deploying in their own communities during Red Flag Warnings, adding to the reporting and visual deterrent capabilities of Orange County.
With the weather warming up and fire season around the corner, it’s important for the community to be prepared for a chance of wildfire and to report any sign of nearby smoke.
“Wildfires are not as simple as something igniting on fire and burning homes and vegetation,” said Tony. “A few tips for fire safety would be to know the weather before you go out. If the weather will be windy, hot and dry, pay attention to your surroundings. Ignitions can start numerous different ways and whether you are working or recreating, know how to get to safety. If you see any type of smoke, fire or unsafe act, call the authorities. It is better to have fire agencies check for smoke and have it be an unusual dust cloud than expect that someone else will alert responders and it be an aggressive, wind driven fire with no 911 calls until it's too late.”
When Tony is not working and protecting the Landmarks, he enjoys spending time with his loved ones. “I like to spend time with my family no matter what it is, as long as we are doing it together,” Tony said. “We have adventurous activities that range from indoor skydiving to learning to crew tall ships for long cruises that could last for multiple weeks at a time. The whole family are foodies and we visit food fairs and enjoy eating experiences and cuisines from cultures all over the world.”
The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are full of important habitats and ecosystems that are unique to Orange County. Tony and the Fire Watch volunteers do their part to ensure the safety and protection of these wildlands, so nature lovers can continue to experience their beauty.
“From the ocean to the Santa Ana Mountains, I am always amazed at the diversity of the Landmarks and our ecosystem,” said Tony.
For more information about Irvine Ranch Conservancy and the Fire Watch program, visit LetsGoOutside.org. If you are interested in becoming a Fire Watch volunteer, please call 714-508-4700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.