Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat

Recent storms have resulted in the easing of burn restrictions.

Suspensions in undeveloped areas of the Stanislaus National Forest were lifted Thursday. Visitors may use wood, charcoal or gas fires and stoves outside developed campgrounds as long as they possess valid California campfire permits and follow regulations.

In rural areas outside the National Forest, Cal Fire said suspensions on debris burning will be lifted at 8 a.m. Monday in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. However, burning remains restricted to the hours between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. and is allowed only on permissive burn days established by the Air Pollution Control District in each county.

For burn-day information, call 533-5598 in Tuolumne County or 754-6600 in Calaveras County.

Other fire districts within Cal Fire's coverage area follow the same regulations as Cal Fire.

Also Monday, Cal Fire will reduce engine staffing from 21 to 15 engines by releasing seasonal firefighters. All Cal Fire stations will remain open.

Debris burning permits from Cal Fire are required while the hourly restrictions remain in place. The permits require the following:

• Burning can be done only on permissive burn days.

• Maximum pile size is 4 feet in diameter.

• All flammable material and vegetation should be cleared within 10 feet of the outer edge of pile.

• A water supply close to the burning site be maintained.

• An adult with a shovel should be in attendance until the fire is out.

Burning is also forbidden in weather conditions considered to be unsafe - such as windy days.

Dry, natural vegetation, grown on the property can be burned outdoors in open piles unless prohibited by local ordinances. Household trash or garbage can't be burned.

Nancy Longmore, spokeswoman for Cal Fire's Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit, requested that people not burn piles of leaves or pine needles.

"The top few inches may be dry but the rest is going to be wet and it creates a horrible, horrible, horrible smoke hazard," she said.

In Calaveras County, burning on property 5 acres or more in size requires a permit from the Air Pollution Control District. In Tuolumne County, clearing two acres or more of vegetation requires a permit from the Air Pollution Control District.

Cooler, wetter weather is also allowing the resumption of controlled burns on public lands.

The Forest Service is igniting about 75 acres of burn piles in the areas of Hathaway Pines, Arnold, Dorrington, Bear Valley and Lake Alpine, with other piles being burned in more remote areas.

Another 279 acres are being burned in the Moore-Bellfour understory area about a mile south of Salt Springs Reservoir. That project is expected to take five to seven days with residual smoke in the area for a week or two.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park began its annual fall prescribed burning program this week.

"2012 marks the first year of a four-year maintenance program for the North Grove of giant sequoias," said park spokesman George Gray. "With a grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and other state funding, fuels will be reduced, and the North Grove forest will be thinned."

Communities near Calaveras Big Trees State Park may experience smoke from the burning operations, he said.

California State Parks is working with the Calaveras County Air Pollution Control District to limit impacts to smoke sensitive areas, Gray said.

Contact Lenore Rutherford at lrutherford@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585.