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Roadside Ignition Reduction and Wildfire Events on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks

PictureFire Watch volunteers preparing for a shift

Many Orange County residents welcome the cool temperatures and autumn colors of fall, but the change in season also brings an increased risk of wildfire to our native wildlands.
Did you know that 99% of wildfires are caused by humans and that 90% of ignitions occur along roadways? Whether accidental or intentional, there are a number of different types of ignition causes, such as faulty catalytic converters, heat from blown out tires and dragging tow chains. Even something as simple as stopping your car on a patch of dried out weeds on the side of a road can ignite a catastrophic wildfire. If there is ever a need to pull off the road, try to find a paved or dirt pullout whenever possible. 

Even if a wildfire starts in a remote location, there is still a chance that it can spread towards a local community, especially during a Santa Ana wind event. One way to help reduce the number of roadside ignitions is creating defensible space around roadways. Defensible space is a natural or landscaped area around a structure that has been maintained to reduce fire danger. Studies have shown that a 30-meter envelope around the perimeter of a road creates defense ability for firefighters and makes a difference in terms of the resilience of the perimeter of nearby communities.
Another tactic to help stop the spread of wildfire is early detection and reporting, which is a method used by the Orange County Fire Watch. In partnership with Irvine Ranch Conservancy, OC Parks, OCFA, City of Irvine and the City of Newport Beach, Fire Watch volunteers are trained to watch for sources of roadside ignitions and report signs of wildfire. During Red Flag events, volunteers are strategically placed near roadsides instead of inside park areas. Fire Watch posts are selected by Irvine Ranch Conservancy based on past fire ignition locations, as well as high potential for arson-related activity.
Working together to reduce catastrophic wildfires is the best way to protect our natural wildlands and local communities. Members of the public can also participate by reporting suspicious behavior and early signs of wildfire, as well as keeping vehicles in good working condition and being mindful of where to pull off the road.
For more information about the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and the Fire Watch program, visit