Buddy Ebsen's common sense is helping to contain real fires in California

The actor best known for playing Jed Clampett makes sure it's always safe to run for the hills.

This week, record-breaking temperatures are hitting Southern California, generating heat waves that often bring brush fires. On June 29, two fires broke out within the span of two commercial breaks in Malibu and Calabasas, as reported by regional magazine The Acorn. A few days later, on July 4, a fire raged for 10 miles, threatening to interrupt the holiday, but was put out before the fireworks began.

While firefighting officials stop the fires, their perpetual eyes on the mountainsides are volunteers. These community members form a volunteer group called Arson Watch that was founded by a man who is no stranger to common sense: Buddy Ebsen.

Best known for his role as J.D. “Jed” Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, Ebsen started Arson Watch in 1982 to put out a raging fire in Dayton Canyon. While it’s fun to imagine Ebsen whittling away at a solution on his own porch in Liberty Canyon, in reality he had to act fast.

He rounded up his daughter, Cathy Ebsen, and his friend Allen Emerson (an actor who played small parts on shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke and Get Smart). Together, they recruited the original Arson Watch, an effort that now spans 185 square miles, including two teams that serve across five areas of Southern California.

The ever-present danger of brush fires is enough to make some folks run from the hills, but for long-time residents, it’s a force worth fighting. So, they fight — and they win, thanks in part to the star of one of TV’s most-watched shows.

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