The fall season is in full swing and with it comes a change in weather and winds. October marks the one-year anniversaries of the Canyon Fire and Canyon Fire 2, and Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff, partners, and the Orange County Fire Watch Program are working with OC Parks to continuously implement programming to help restore and protect the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Nearly 40,000 acres of open spaces are home to wildlife and various rare and native species, and the work of staff and volunteers is incredibly important during the Santa Ana wind season and year-round.
The 2017 canyon fires affected Weir Canyon, Blind Canyon, parts of Fremont Canyon Nature Preserve and beyond, with assessment restoration efforts starting almost immediately after the fires were contained. All habitat types including coastal sage scrub, chaparral, grassland, oak woodlands, and riparian were affected by the fires, and most areas are showing signs of improvement and are expected to recover.
“The problem is not the fire itself but the frequency and scale at which fires ignite,” said Dr. Nathan Gregory, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Science and Stewardship Director. “The natural cycle for fires in Southern California is every 50 to 100 years historically. However, these vast fires are occurring much more frequently due to invasive grasses brought in by previous grazing and accidental or intentional human causes. Our restoration efforts are helping to restore the land, but groups like Fire Watch are equally important to help stop ignitions before they occur.”
The Orange County Fire Watch Program aims to reduce wildland fire ignition sources on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and surrounding areas. Fire Watch program volunteers and staff monitor the perimeters of high-risk areas of Orange County, serving as visual deterrents while reporting suspicious or dangerous behaviors or activities. Volunteers also assist with early detection and reporting of ignitions. Fire Watch is facilitated in partnership with OC Parks, City of Irvine, City of Newport Beach, Irvine Ranch Conservancy and Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA).
“Joining Orange County Fire Watch is one of the most crucial things a volunteer can do right now to protect Orange County's neighborhoods and open spaces from wildfire,” said Orange County Fire Watch Program Manager, Tony Pointer. “If we come together as a community to get involved and try to reduce accidental or intentional human ignition sources, we can help preserve and protect Orange County’s wilderness and the surrounding community.”
Orange County Fire Watch volunteers must complete all the requirements of an OC Parks volunteer or an Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteer, including a background check, and receive training on the history of wildland fires in Orange County, wilderness fire behavior, safety procedures, and recognizing and reporting dangerous situations. The Orange County Fire Watch Network is deployed during Red Flag conditions where periods of high temperature, low humidity and high winds lead to a high fire risk.
A year after the Canyon Fire and Canyon Fire 2, restoration and preventative efforts continue to make an impact on Orange County’s open spaces. For more information on Fire Watch visit orangecountyfirewatch.org and to learn more about joining a stewardship program visit www.letsgooutside.org/stewardship or click the links below to help restore the lands and control invasive weed populations.
- Give Back and Enjoy the Beauty: Dripping Springs on Thursday, 11/8 from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. invites outdoor enthusiasts to connect with nature and give back to the land by assisting native plants and wildlife to flourish in an extremely sensitive area of Limestone Canyon Preserve. You will get the chance to ride through the canyon in a safari-type vehicle to the Dripping Springs Trail where you may water or add native plants. In addition, you will be able to hike approximately 2 miles round-trip to Dripping Springs; a fern-covered rock face dripping with life-giving water creating an essential watering hole for wildlife in the canyon. Your work along this trail will not only benefit the plants and animals, but you will be supporting its continued beautification and protection.
- Native Plant Nursey at Augustine Staging Area on Thursday, 11/15 from 9:30 – 11 a.m. gives visitors a unique opportunity to help seed native plants species in small containers, and water the newly planted native shrubs. Your help will help to enhance native habitat within Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve!
- 3rd Sunday Restoration Day at Peters Canyon Regional Park on Sunday, 11/18 from 7:30-10:30 a.m. is great way to give back and help improve native habitat at Peters Canyon Regional Park by removing non-native invasive plants, which steal light, water and nutrients from native species.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy helps protect and preserve the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks through unified efforts that involves the dedicated support of landowners and partners to the lands. Many of the stewardship activities require you to wear long pants, closed-toe shoes and long sleeves. Most activities are free with required pre-registration, which closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to each event. For more details on programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and how to give back to the land visit https://letsgooutside.org/stewardship.