By ADAM ASHTON
The heat wave has pushed Stanislaus National Forest officials to call for fire restrictions that, as of Friday morning, will limit campfires and smoking in the forest's lower elevations.
From elevations of 1,250 to 6,500 feet, the restrictions prohibit campfires except in designated recreation areas including developed campgrounds, barbecues except in developed campgrounds, smoking except in buildings or vehicles, welding, and using explosives.
Forest spokesman Pat Kaunert said the restrictions are necessary because of dry conditions and high temperatures.
"Conditions are sizing up to be extremely dry this year throughout the West and now in the Sierra. For that reason, we need everybody to help us prevent fires before they start," he said.
A list of areas where fires will be permitted is available at the forest supervisor's office in Sonora and at the Mi-Wok, Summit, Groveland and Calaveras ranger stations.
Kaunert said gas-powered camping stoves and lanterns will still be allowed in areas where campfires are prohibited.
He said campers should remove all vegetation within 10 feet of their gas stoves as a precaution.
Kaunert said campfires and barbecues can be dangerous when wind catches flying embers or when ashes continue to smolder after campers leave their fires.
He recommended campers use five gallons of water to douse an average size fire.
"With dry conditions like these, it becomes much more possible for a fire to escape your control," Kaunert said.
He said these restrictions do not go into effect every year but conditions have made them necessary in the past few years. He said continued heat could make similar restrictions necessary in elevations up to 8,000 feet later this summer.
Kaunert added that the fire restrictions are also necessary to ensure that firefighters and equipment are available to help combat wildfires all over the West.
"This is a year when every firefighter counts," he said.
Kaunert said some Stanislaus-based fire crews have recently returned from fires in Arizona, Colorado and Utah.