Fire season in the western United States has become a nearly year-round event, meaning the public, private businesses and governmental organizations like the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) must remain vigilant in preventing fires.
While there isn’t a way to eliminate all fire risk, TCA continues to take important steps to prevent and mitigate wildfires. Those measures include being proactive in reducing the amount of potential wildfire fuels in the areas surrounding the toll plazas and within the Agencies 17 environmental mitigation sites.
TCA partners with multiple organizations, including the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), Natural Communities Coalition and County of Orange Area Safety Team (COAST) to collaborate and share information regarding strategies to clear vegetation, create defensible spaces and buffers, and reduce fire risk that help first responders prevent and/or fight wildfires when they occur. TCA also participates in the Orange County Fire Watch program, which alerts the public to elevated fire danger in or near wilderness parks and communities across Orange County.
In 2020, the Silverado Fire raged from Oct. 26 to Nov. 7. The blaze burned 13,390 acres, forced the evacuation of approximately 90,000 residents, shuttered schools and temporarily closed portions of the 241 Toll Road. In total, the fire destroyed three structures and damaged nine — including the Tomato Springs Mainline Toll Point buildings adjacent to the 241 Toll Road and the Orange Grove Mainline Toll Point buildings adjacent to the 133 Toll Road. The fire burned the landscape surrounding the buildings, scorched their sides, caused windows to burst and melted pavement.
TCA is repairing the fire damage and implementing additional fire preventive measures at the affected buildings based on recommendations from OCFA, including 100-foot buffer space around the buildings, increased hardscape and limited landscaping using plants from OCFA’s approved list of plants that reduce potential fuel sources and are drought tolerant.
For several years now, TCA has been actively completing fuel reduction activities at its environmental mitigation sites. This includes working with OCFA and the Agencies’ biologists and lands management contractors to maintain access roads, remove dry vegetation that could lead to fire and creating fire hazard break zones of 100 to 200 feet from any adjacent structures.
At one of the Agencies’ environmental mitigation sites in particular, TCA has been a pioneer in piloting the use of grazing cattle to decrease the amount of dry vegetation, which helps reduce the risk of wildfire. The cattle graze TCA’s 23.2-acre Live Oak Plaza Conservation Area in Trabuco Canyon for two-week periods, three times a year.
By doing our part to help prevent wildfires, we are protecting our community; protecting and preserving wildlife and native habitats; and minimizing the impact on first responders.
To learn how to protect yourself, your family and your property during wildfire season, check out these tips from OCFA: https://www.ocfa.org/SafetyPrograms/ReadySetGo.aspx.