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Wildfire Awareness: Most Common Causes of Wildfire and How to be Prepared

PictureA Fire Watch volunteer on the job

​With temperatures beginning to warm up across the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, it’s never too early to start thinking about wildfire season in Orange County. Wildfires can be a serious threat to native wildlands, but we can all do our part through awareness and knowledge of proper safety guidelines during Red Flag Warning Days.

According to Cal Fire, the fire season in California is starting earlier and ending later each year due to warmer spring and summer temperatures creating a longer and more intense dry season. Since the wildlands in Orange County go without any rainfall through the hot summer months, vegetation becomes extremely dry and susceptible to fire.

​Most wildfires in Orange County are caused by roadside ignitions, which are usually accidental or unintentional. Something as simple as a broken catalytic converter or dragging tow chains during a Red Flag Warning Day can cause a tiny spark that sets off a devastating blaze. A common mistake made by drivers having car trouble is pulling off to the side of the road near a weed-filled area. The heat from the car can easily cause the dry grass to ignite. It’s important to keep in mind that if a driver needs to pull off the road, finding a paved or dirt pullout whenever possible is highly encouraged.
Even if a wildfire starts in a remote location, there is always a chance it can spread to local communities, especially during a Santa Ana wind event. Many people believe that if flames from a wildfire don’t reach their home, then they are safe. In fact, flying embers are a leading cause of structural damage during a wildfire. Embers can travel up to a mile ahead of a fire and ignite near a home.
We can’t prevent every wildfire that occurs, but we can prepare ourselves to be more cautious and aware of our surroundings. Do your best to be vigilant, especially during Santa Ana wind events, and report any sign of suspicious activity or fire in your area. Always be ready for a potential wildfire. Simple tasks such as taking your car in for regular service, reducing dry brush around your property and having an evacuation plan can go a long way. In the event a fire does start in your area, everyone is encouraged to dial 911 as soon as possible. Additional fire safety tips and resources can be found on the Orange County Fire Authority website.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s mission to protect and maintain the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks includes preparing these native lands for potential wildfire. Removing non-native grasses that dry out during the summer and replacing them with sustainable native plants is just one way the Conservancy does its part in protecting the Landmarks and native wildlife.
Irvine Ranch Conservancy, in partnership with OC Parks, City of Irvine, City of Newport Beach and Orange County Fire Authority, manages the Orange County Fire Watch program, which was created to help reduce catastrophic wildfires through education, early reporting and deterrence. Fire Watch volunteers are deployed during Santa Ana wind events, Red Flag Warning Days and special circumstances that present a potential fire danger like the 4th of July. These volunteers are trained by OCFA and Irvine Ranch Conservancy to watch for potential wildfire causes like roadside ignitions and suspicious activity.
To learn more about the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and Orange County Fire Watch, visit For those interested in volunteering with the Fire Watch program, please call (714) 508-4700 or email