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Red Flag Program

Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council's Red Flag Program:

Click Here to download the Red Flag Patrol Unit/Activity Log

History has clearly demonstrated that Southern California Wildfires are more likely to occur and more likely to spread when strong winds out of the east are accompanied by low humidity levels.  If the wind speeds are sufficient (25 MPH or >) and the humidity levels low enough (< 15%), this potentially dangerous combination actually prompts an official readiness response called the “Red Flag Program.”   Several different professional fire agencies including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), the US Forest Service, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), Los Angeles County Fire Department, etc., as well as numerous local fire departments and utility companies all have Red Flag Programs that can be activated at any time.  When alerted, these agencies go a high readiness level which may include canceling non-essential activities, putting extra personnel on patrols, placing aircraft and other vehicles at critical positions, etc.  Every effort is made to reduce response time to absolute minimums. 

The Red Flag Program as practiced by the CDF, OCFA, LA County, etc., normally has four progressive stages.  However, Cancellation (Stage IV) may occur at any time.

Stage I.    Fire Weather Watch – usually 48 to 72 hours in advance of a Red Flag Alert.  

Stage II.   Red Flag Warning – usually 24 hours in advance of a Red Flag Alert.

Stage III.   Red Flag Alert

Stage IV.  Cancellation

The Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council Red Flag Program is designed to complement the official steps taken by the fire fighting professionals with the goal of providing a highly visible reminder to all citizens in the region to be extra careful and vigilant on the days when the Santa Ana winds blow.  The Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council Red Flag Program will be managed and staffed by citizen volunteers.  These community members will follow pre-specified patrol routes along the wildland interface (the canyons and hillsides) to watch for fires and/or suspicious activity.  Simultaneously, local schools, homeowners, stores and businesses will be alerted to display fire safe council-provided red flags along the highways and streets of the region to alert drivers and others to the hazardous conditions at hand.  In a typical fire season, there are three to five Red Flag Alerts.

Notification procedures:

The National Weather Service begins the Red Flag Watch program by alerting CDF to weather condition changes over parts of the Western plains that could bring high winds and low humidity over our region.  CDF then advises their regional offices and other agencies that would need this information.  OCFA and Laguna Beach Fire Department are notified by these CDF advisories.

OCFA will notify the Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council Red Flag coordinators by email whenever they initiate Stage I of their own Red Flag program. The coordinators will then activate the Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council Red Flag Program.

Stage I.  Fire Weather Watch.    (48 to 72 Hours in advance)

Coordinators will alert volunteers by email/phone of the watch condition and establish who will be available for patrol duty and ask them to stand by.

Stage II.  Red Flag Warning.   (24 Hours in advance)

Coordinators will notify volunteers of their patrol duty; partner, route, and shift.

Stage III.  Red Flag Alert

Coordinators will notify volunteers of the Alert status and have them begin the patrols.

Stage IV.  Cancellation

When coordinators receive notice that the Red Flag condition no longer exists, they will immediately notice both the active patrols and stand by patrols that the alert is no longer in effect.

Following each activation of the Fire Safe Council Red Flag patrol, an assessment will be made with the goal of solving problems and improving all future deployments.


Volunteers will be recruited from the Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council area through the use of the news stories, advertisements and community organizations.

Citizens can express their willingness to participate by requesting and completing a Red Flag Patrol volunteer application.  This will be available on the Fire Council website.

Volunteers will use their own vehicles and provide their own personal cell phone, and  binoculars. 

All volunteers must attend a training class.

Volunteer Training:

The volunteer training will be conducted by Battalion Chief Mark Baker of the L.B.F.D. and Battalion Chief Dan Drake of the OCFA. 

The training session will last approximately three hours.  Among the items covered will be safety, communication procedures, map reading and how to recognize and report potentially dangerous situations.

After completing the training each volunteer will be issued:

  • Ready Bag for all supplies
  • Photo ID card
  • Route maps and area maps
  • Card with phone numbers and procedures.
  • Cap with logo. 
  • Magnetic identification signs for the sides of the car.
  • Red Flag with logo for top of car.
  • Disposable camera.
  • Flashlight
  • Log Book
  • Light Sticks

Patrol Routes:  Will be established by Laguna Beach Fire Dept. and OCFA

Patrol Shift:  Each two-person shift will be limited to two hours.

Community Notification:

In conjunction with the Red Flag Patrols, business owners along Laguna Canyon Road, Pacific Coast Highway, and Aliso Creek Road as well as schools and individual homeowners will be ask to put out flags which will inform the community as a whole of a Red Flag Alert condition.  Notification for these people will take place only when a Red Flag Alert (Stage III) has been actually been called.  They would be immediately notified upon receipt of the Red Flag Alert cancellation (Stage IV).

When the Red Flag Program is completely ready for activation, every effort would be made through news stories and paid advertisements to inform the public as to the existence and the goals of the program.

© 2011 Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safe Council. All rights reserved