Firefighters are urging homeowners to keep dead leaves off roofs and clean out rain gutters to help protect their homes from fire weather dangers.
Dry winds blowing 20 to 30 mph are the kind that can carry a spark a fire far from its source, as was the case when a freeway fire lit Santa Ana resident Corey Pauck’s wood pile ablaze, then jumped to his neighbor’s roof an hour later.
According to firefighters, a car fire behind Pauck’s home ignited a brush fire. That brush fire settled deep inside mulch. The wind can then cause embers to travel to the Deadora Drive home.
Firefighters say this kind of fire can happen anywhere there is a mulch pile, because of natural decomposing.
"It could spontaneously combust and start a fire, based off heat alone, because it gets so hot," OC Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said. Concialdi said this is how a huge pile of much caught fire in Baker Canyon last October.
Authorities say the neighbor’s roof was covered in dry, dead leaves where the embers sat and then ignited again.
The home burned from the outside and in, through the attic. The homeowner said it was a total loss.
"You could just feel the heat," Pauck said. "It was very scary."
"If an ember had lodged in a tree, it just would have been the apocalypse here," Pauck said.
Two people were inside Pauck’s neighbor’s home at the time of the fire, but managed to get out safely.
A red flag warning is in effect for most of Southern California, including Orange County, until 8 p.m. Wednesday.