Fire Watch Volunteers Scanning the Hillsides to Spot Wildfires Before They Get Out of Hand

August 17, 2021 8:35 pm


Training in the wild, fire watch volunteers picked up their radios and binoculars for some hands on training Tuesday to learn how to spot wildfires before they get out of hand.

They’re deployed on a moments notice usually during a red flag alert but these are volunteers who spread out throughout the county.

They are dispatched to three dozen locations from Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park Campground in the south north to Carbon Canyon Regional Park. Each volunteer is an extra set of eyes scanning the horizon for even a hint of smoke.

Noma Bates checks how fast the wind is blowing. If it’s hot and dry then she knows the fire risk in these wild lands will only multiply.

“Especially Santa Anas, the fire moves so fast that you cannot get out and you cannot outrun it,” she said. “So if I can warn the fire department and they can warn people then a lot of lives are saved.”

More than 300 volunteers are being trained by the Irvine Land Conservancy. Their goal is to issue warnings, report fires and educate those using hiking trails and desolate roads.

“There is a fear of you know the fires because there is a drought happening right now and climate change is real and things are shifting for sure,” said Edgar Chairez, a hiker.

While some go out into nature, others are home, scanning online. There are 38 alert wild fire cameras also being watched by volunteers who started this way during the pandemic.

But firefighters say not even a pandemic can stop a fire.

The Silverado Fire in Oct. 2020 blackened 12,000 acres. Five buildings were destroyed and two firefighters were critically injured.

The fire watch volunteers say they will take all of the resources at their disposal, hoping they never have to make that call to the fire department.

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