Orange County, California wildland firefighters

orange_county_fire_authorityThe Orange County Register, a southern California publication, has an article about wildland firefighters that work for Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA). It’s full of cliches, with the first one being in the title: “…slay The Beast”. But at least it does not use the term “burning issue”.  Here is an excerpt:

…Where we see grass, trees and chaparral, firefighters see fuel, as in “green fuel,” “live fuel,” “dead fuel.”

Early in the day I meet up with OCFA Wildland Defense Planner George Ewan in Black Star Canyon. Perhaps it’s fate we meet in this legendary canyon known by teenagers as a place of mystery and evil. A Santa Ana wind brushes our faces, instantly parching our mouths.

Our forbearers called Santa Anas “devil winds.”

As Ewan gathers live plant cuttings barely the width of a No. 2 pencil lead, he explains how Orange County is particularly vulnerable to Santa Anas. Born in the desert, the winds gather force as they head west. When they hit cooler coastal temperatures, they increase exponentially.

Ewan gently places the tiny trimmings in a gray metal can. Later, he will test each one for water content. The percent of hydrogen and oxygen molecules will help tell the OCFA what kind of resources they will need to prevent a small fire from turning into something devastating.

It’s before 10 a.m. and already Ewan’s instruments show the temperature at 88 degrees and the humidity a dry 16 percent. The wind is clocked at five miles an hour. But high above us, canyons act as wind funnels. Gusts there are measured at 35 miles an hour.

Even before he returns to his lab, Ewan declares, “This is fire weather.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.