Summer Fires in LA Alter Lives of Many Orange County Residents

Since the beginning of August, the recent fire outbreak has been raging through California and leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Spanning from Los Angeles County to Alameda, several blazes have burned and destroyed around 336,000 acres of land, hundreds of structures and have resulted in two casualties.

Despite the fact that brush fire season has passed for Southern California, recent fires, most notably the Station Fire that threatened the renowned Mount Wilson Observatory, contradicts this norm.

The Station Fire is currently expected to be contained by Tuesday and been called the largest wildfire in the history of LA County.

The physical damage that has burned many structures to the ground has created even more debt for the state of California.

As the Station Fire burns, 700 firefighters continue working to stop the force of nature that has already left an estimated $88 million dollars worth of damage.

Although Irvine has been spared thus far from the recent spur of wildfires, residents far and wide are feeling its effects. Stephanie Stull, a second year biology major, came face to face with last month’s Rancho Palos Verdes brushfire near the intersection of Ocean Trails and Palos Verdes Drive.

A 15-year native of the seaside community, Stull was out of town when she received the news.

“I heard about it on TV. They said that it was near my rival high school,” Stull said. The Palos Verdes High School alumni quickly recognized the affected intersections and came home the following day to witness the fire’s devastation.

“There was so much traffic driving up Crenshaw Boulevard. It was completely blocked and congested,” Stull said. “People were just standing in the streets talking about the fires. It was pretty horrific.”

Although Stull was lucky enough to return to her home to find it unscathed, others were not so fortunate. Stull’s friend from high school was one out of six households that lost their homes to their blaze.

Two public structures, power lines and 235 acres suffered damages as the initial alarm one blaze jumped to level three within the span of one hour.

Reports say that these fires, some caused by arson and others by unfavorable weather conditions, are far from over. Captain Greg McKeown of the Orange County Fire Authority said that the region’s fire season has been ongoing since May 2006.

“There is high fire danger year-round in Orange County for numerous reasons. One of those reasons is the lack of rainfall, which brings on drought and dried-out brush due to the hot weather,” said McKeown.

While Orange County has been spared in the past couple of months, McKeown says the OC has experienced two large fires within the past two years, including the Santiago fire.

“Our goal is to be ready to respond and to respond quickly with as many resources possible,” McKeown said. In terms of our own campus’ fire safety, McKeown states that we cannot rule out the possibility.

“Irvine is surrounded by wetlands and overgrown and dried hills. The fire can definitely strike that area and affect residents and businesses,” McKeown said.

Given the statistics, it is clear that we should cross our fingers for a rainy fall this year. Students should visit OCFA’s Web site for more information regarding fires in Orange County.