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Golfer’s Titanium Club Ignites Wildfire

Arroyo Trabuco wildfire
A wildfire was started by a golfer at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club. (Photo courtesy of Chad Boberg via Orange County Register)

A 98-acre brush fire in Mission Viejo, Calif., was unintentionally ignited by a golfer earlier this week

Local TV stations reported that a golfer was trying to hit his ball out of the dry rough when his titanium-alloy club struck a rock, causing a spark that set off the blaze at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club.

Titanium golf clubs create sparks in a way that steel clubs do not, according to a study by James Earthman, a UC Irvine chemical engineering and materials science professor.

“With stainless steel we never saw any sparks,” Earthman said. “When we tested a titanium club, every time we hit a rock with a titanium there were a lot of sparks.”

This video shows the sparks caused when titanium strikes rock.

That club strike generates a lot of heat.

“It can create a spark of almost 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to start a brush fire,” said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz.

In an investigative report, the Orange County ABC news affiliate investigated the fire and the chemical reaction of titanium alloys.

The golfer who ignited the fire tried to put out the flames, but they quickly spread into the dry brush.

The fire burned for over three hours before it was fully contained. There were no injuries or structures damaged during the fire. Interestingly, the same thing occurred at the same golf course in 2011. It also occurred in 2014 at Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine.

The threat of fires is made worse by five years of drought in California.

The message to golfers should be clear: When your ball is in the dry rough, keep those titanium golf clubs in the bag. As Smokey Bear would say, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

VIEW PHOTO SLIDESHOW from the Orange County Register



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