New rules are in effect this week, banning campfires at all National Forest sites throughout the Central Coast.
Andrew Madsen with the Los Padres National Forest says campgrounds are expected to be at or near capacity for the Labor Day holiday weekend. The unit includes some of the most popular destinations within the state, including Big Sur along the coast.
The state's ongoing drought pushed fire restrictions up to a Level IV on Tuesday, which could come as a surprise to some campers.
"Well, if they were unaware of our rise in fire restrictions that took effect this week and they went to a campground expecting that they'd be able to have an open fire, they'll be disappointed," said Madsen. "All of the fire pits have been roped off, and so that's the big change."
The Level IV rules declare charcoal fires are also prohibited.
Portable stoves and lanterns that use gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are still allowed, but a valid California Campfire Permit is required. Those permits can be downloaded from the forest service website here.
The following rules are part of the Level IV fire restrictions:
- Wood and charcoal fires are prohibited in all areas of Los Padres National Forest including designated Campfire Use sites; however persons with a valid California Campfire Permit are allowed to use portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel within the designated Campfire Use Sites only. California Campfire Permits are available for free download from the Los Padres National Forest website (http://www.fs.usda.gov/lpnf). You must clear all flammable material for a distance of five feet in all directions from your camp stove, have a shovel available, and ensure that a responsible person attends the stove at all times when it is in use.
- Recreational target shooting is prohibited in all areas of the National Forest unless specifically authorized by a special use permit with the Forest; however, hunting with a valid State of California hunting license during open hunting season is exempt from this restriction.
- Smoking is prohibited in all areas of the national forest except within an enclosed vehicle, building, or designated Campfire Use Site.
- Fireworks are prohibited at all times and in all locations within Los Padres National Forest.
- Operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark arresting device properly installed, maintained and in effective working order on roads and trails specifically designated for such use. (This restriction is in effect year-round.)
The Los Padres National Forest says violators are subject to a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail, and could be liable for the full cost of any fire suppression activities that result from their actions.