Rural SoCal community installs wildfire protection system to protect residents

David González Image
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Rural SoCal community installs wildfire protection system
The SoCal community of Rancho Carrillo is in an area prone to brush fires. Instead of waiting for the worst to happen, residents are leading the charge on fire preparedness.

RANCHO CARRILLO, Calif. (KABC) -- Tucked away between Orange and Riverside counties is a small community made up of about 300 people called Rancho Carrillo.

A six-mile private road into the Cleveland National Forest is the only way in and out for its residents.

In 1993, a fast-moving wildfire ravaged through parts of town.

"The fire behavior today is so dramatically less predictable than it was 30 years ago," said Brent Chase, captain for the Rancho Carrillo Volunteer Fire Company. "We all have that sense of it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when that's going to happen."

Chase said there's only so much they can do during a wildfire other than making sure people and their animals can get out safely.

"We're really focused on if it happens quickly, and we can't get out of here in time we want to be able to have a shelter in place - spot for everybody to come," he said.

Chase said they've installed a Frontline Wildfire Defense system on its community center that adds another level of protection.

"That's a whole company of firefighters that's on this building without me having to be here," Chase said.

Luke Maher, head of marketing for Frontline Wildfire Defense, said the defense system uses software to monitor wildfires in the area and turns on external sprinklers that saturates the building with a mixture of water and foam, and creates up to a 30-foot wet zone when there's a threat nearby.

"I think this is potentially a model for how communities can defend themselves and control their own destiny," Maher said.

"Essentially, create an environment that's too wet to ignite for ember ignition, which is the number one reason that homes burn during a wildfire, is wind-borne embers." Maher added.

The system starts at about $25,000.

Chase said whether or not each individual resident in Rancho Carrillo decides to implement a wildfire protection system like this one in their homes they at least know they have a safe place here in their community where they can go just in case of an emergency.

"As a volunteer fireman I know I will be somewhere else doing something, so knowing that this building is protected on its own without me having to be here to do anything, it lets me rest comfortably," Chase said.