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What a Red Flag Warning Means to You

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You can help prevent wildfires by being vigilant, careful and ready during Red Flag weather.

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning across Southern California, something that people in Orange County may be used to. But do you know what to do during a Red Flag Warning?

A Red Flag Warning is issued when fire weather forecasters determine that certain factors for high fire risk occur. These factors usually include high winds, warm weather, low humidity and dry vegetation. Since there is little chance of lightning in Orange County, most wildfires are human-caused, either accidentally or by arson. To help watch for suspicious or careless activity and fire starts, organizations such as Irvine Ranch Conservancy and OC Parks deploy Fire Watch programs. These programs include trained volunteers, and the program is supported by Orange County Fire Authority.


Fire Watch volunteers are stationed along roadsides near fire-prone open space, since most arson wildfires are started along roads and urban edges. Since arsonists are more likely to strike during high wind events, causing the most damage, Fire Watch volunteers serve as a deterrent. They also watch out for hazardous or careless activity that could start a fire accidentally.

You can also support the Fire Watch volunteers by being extra aware of fire potential during high wind events. There are three primary ways you can prevent disaster:

Be Vigilant: Especially during strong Santa Ana winds and Red Flag Warnings, look out for suspicious or careless activity, and report it to authorities. You can also join a community fire watch network, which support Orange County Fire Authority and protect communities by reporting dangerous or hazardous activities.

Be Careful: Most fires are started along roadways. Keep your car in tune to help avoid catalytic converter explosions, and never pull your car over on top of dry grass. Make sure tow chains are off the ground to avoid sparks and never throw a cigarette out of a car window.

Be Ready: Flying embers can travel up to a mile ahead of a fire, and are the leading cause of damage to homes and structures in a wildfire. The most important thing you can do to protect your property is to “fire harden” your home. To find out how, contact OCFA for a free fire risk analysis.

Irvine Ranch Conservancy has deployed Fire Watch volunteers to strategic locations throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, and cancelled scheduled activities through Friday. Suspending programs is a precaution, so visitors are not in danger if a wildfire should start. For instance, the 2007 Santiago Fire started near the Augustine Staging Area in Limestone Canyon. Canceling public programs before the severe high winds during that time meant that no visitors were in the area when the fire started.

To find out more about “fire hardening” your home and preventing wildfires, visit www.ReadySetGoOC.org. To find out more about becoming a Fire Watch volunteer, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/volunteer