Orange County Fire Watch, a partnership among OC Parks, City of Irvine, City of Newport Beach, Irvine Ranch Conservancy and the Orange County Fire Authority, have a goal of reducing catastrophic wildfires through deterrence, early reporting and education.
With fire season upon us and COVID-19 regulations in place, Fire Watch volunteers are still able to successfully monitor fire danger virtually.
“Normally, Fire Watch volunteers report to specific locations around the county and to the Fire Watch Operations Center located at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy offices during Red Flag Days to monitor for potential fire danger,” said Orange County Fire Watch Manager Tony Pointer. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have transitioned some of our activities to a virtual Fire Watch, so our volunteers can have the opportunity to be involved and successfully monitor fire danger while staying safe in their own home.”
During a Red Flag warning event, volunteers will be able to access real-time SCE Alert Wildfire Cameras from their personal devices to search for signs of smoke or potential fire danger and report any threats to 911 or the Fire Watch Operations Center Hotline. Each volunteer will monitor multiple cameras from the 28 that cover the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and other areas in Orange County in four-hour increments. In preparation for this year’s fire season, Fire Watch volunteers have gone through virtual Zoom training with Pointer and partner fire agencies.
“The virtual Fire Watch activity is our next evolution of using the SCE Alert Wildfire Cameras,” said Pointer. “The existing public interface has been an extra set of eyes for Fire Watch for over two years, so we have been prepared for a situation like this.”
Fire Watch volunteers who are able to work in the field will deploy under special COVID-19 guidelines with two volunteers physically distanced with face coverings at 36 locations across Orange County. Field volunteers will drive their own vehicles to an assigned location and have personal Fire Watch kits on-hand.
“Having a back-up plan is the nature of our industry,” said Pointer. “The pandemic is another hurdle we have to overcome and virtual Fire Watch is another way to help prevent wildfires on the Landmarks.”
For more information about Fire Watch visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities/fire-watch.
For more information on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks visit www.LetsGoOutside.org.