Wildfires up 50% in area around Chino Hills State Park, study says

BREA, Calif. (KABC) -- Wildfires are up by 50% from 2012 to 2018 in the area where Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties come together, when compared to the previous 97 years, according to a study by Hills for Everyone.

The technical consultant for the nonprofit, Melanie Schlotterbeck, said the study, 104 Years of Wildfire History Near Chino Hills State Park, showed the land staff at the organization worked to protect was slowly burning away.

"Of the 151 wildfires that we have documentation for, only two of them were caused by lightning strikes," Schlotterbeck said.

The rest were human-caused, according to the data the organization said it collected from fire agencies and newspaper records.

Schlotterbeck, said it first published wildfire statistics for the area for 1914 through 2011, "but what we realized was with the 2017 and 2018 fires that happened across the state of California, we really should be understanding what has happened here again locally."

The new document added the next seven years.

"We could then inform decision makers as well as fire agencies, so that they understood maybe where they should not be putting houses, where fire buffers should exist," Schlotterbeck said.

One finding was the trend for hotspots, or places with a high frequency of fires. Schlotterbeck said these included Rimcrest in Yorba Linda, the southern border of Chino Hills State Park and the 91 Freeway in the Santa Ana corridor.

According to the study, Carbon Canyon Road is a hotspot with nearly 20% of fires started there. Schlotterbeck said that was due to traffic going from Orange County to San Bernardino County and put the hills of the Olinda Ranch community and Chino Hills State Park at great risk of going up in flames.

Yorba Linda resident Rich Schorem often cycled at Chino Hills State Park. Schorem said the stats didn't surprise him because of what he's seen on the trails.

"There was a guy walking up here five miles up that was smoking a cigar just walking down the path," Schorem said.

Gilbert Pineda lived in Olinda Ranch. He said he wasn't convinced the release of this study was just about showing the numbers.

"What are they doing to deter this rather than putting out this data to scare people, you know, trying to keep people away," Pineda said.

The study highlighted the 91 Freeway at the Santa Ana corridor as the worst hot spot with just more than 30% of fires ignited there.
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