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When the Santa Ana winds blow in the fall — and fire danger levels go sky high — watch for bright red flags snapping next to the golden bear and Old Glory at official places across Orange County.

These so-called “Fire Alert” flags will be hoisted at the 22 city halls that contract with the Orange County Fire Authority. Others will fly from poles in Orange County parks, at county offices and fire authority stations.

“La Palma will be using the electronic marquee at city hall instead of the red flag,” said Fire Authority Communications Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion in an email, “and Irvine will have a ‘virtual’ red flag by posting a message on their website.”

It’s important, said fire authority spokesman Capt. Greg McKeown, to make everyone, even those who live far from wilderness fire danger areas, aware of the hazards created by strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.

“The point is to raise the consciousness of everyone in Orange County,” he said.

Fires have ravaged Southern California in recent years. The latest serious blaze in Orange County, the 2008 Freeway Complex Fire, raced along the 91 Freeway and up into the hills around Yorba Linda, Anaheim and Brea.

The Orange County Parks Department manages about 40,000 acres of open space and wilderness area.

Ordinary citizens, said McKeown, need to be so aware of fire hazards that even when they take short trips to high-fire danger areas they follow strict precautions and don’t use lighters, matches or tools that can throw off sparks.

If you see smoke or a fire, he said, call 911. He urged residents to report it when they see others doing something dangerous that could cause a fire.

“What they should do,” he said, “is be good eyes and ears for us.”

— TRACY WOOD

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