Thursday, September 02, 2010

California golfer's errant swing 'sparks 12-acre blaze'

Over the weekend a golfer accidentally chipped a rock, setting off a 12-acre blaze next to the Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Greg McKeown said. The good news is the fire was put out, but not before more than 150 firefighters from around Orange County battled the blaze, with helicopters overhead and hand crews on the front lines, said McKeown. The fire spread across two hillsides in dry-as-tinderbox conditions, McKeown said.

"Usually, we're able to close out the fire season in the winters here," McKeown added, "but we haven't been able to do that since 2006. That's just how dry it is out there." McKeown said no charges have been filed against the golfer, whose name has been withheld. Apparently, the golfer was in the rough and was trying to hit his ball out of it when he accidentally swiped at a rock, which sparked the blaze at 12:07 p.m. on Saturday. McKeown said brush fires are not uncommon when temperatures reach into the high 70s and lower 80s and conditions are ripe.

When there is no rain, the overhead and waist-high brush — or in this case sage and scrub oak — tend to be flammable. "There's a lot of dead growth out there," said McKeown, adding that the dry stuff is always "a pretty big contributor" to wildfires in the region when they do break out. To fight the fire, firefighters dug lines around the perimeter, which means they dug a gully to stop the spread, something homeowners should do to protect their properties — in addition to making sure the brush that surrounds properties are cut.

"We had to stretch hose lines up the hills," said McKeown, adding that thousands of gallons of water were used to extinguish the blaze. "We had firefighters on the ground and attacking the fire on the ridge. We had water dropped from helicopters and water drops from helicopters and hand crews digging a fire line around the edges of the fire." According to McKeown, there are hundreds to thousands of acres in Orange County ripe for wildfires, a recipe for disaster just waiting to happen if people aren't extremely cautious and careful.

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