Forest campfire rules tighten

Union Democrat staff /

The U.S. Forest Service on Friday will implement fire and smoking restrictions in several parts of the Stanislaus National Forest, the result of extremely high fire dangers.

The restrictions apply to so-called "High Hazard" areas in the Groveland, Mi-Wok, Summit and Calaveras ranger districts. Check with ranger district offices for details and maps of such areas.

The restrictions prohibit campfires, briquette barbecues, and smoking outside of developed campgrounds, as well as welding and blasting, in High Hazard areas unless you have a special permit.

People can use portable stoves or gas lanterns within developed recreation sites only if they possess a valid California Campfire Permit.

Too, smoking is prohibited, except within cars or buildings, developed recreational sites, or "while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material," per Forest Order.

The restrictions are necessary because of high fire danger, the result of low rain and snowfall this year, and because of carelessness by many campers, according to forest officials.

Chris Schow, the Stanislaus National Forest's fire management officer for the Stanislaus National Forest, said forest personnel have found 16 unattended campfires when out in the field so far this year. Last year, there were 133.

Though natural causes continue to account for more than 50 percent of wildfires in the Stanislaus National Forest, human caused wildfire is a major contender. Since 1970, campfires account for 695 fires, smoking at 368, arson at 235 and debris burning at 228 fires. An illegal campfire was the cause of 2013's Rim Fire, the third largest wildfire in state history.

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