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Los Padres adds new fire-safety rules

29 August 2004

Santa Barbara News-Press

Morgan Green

With the landscape exceptionally dry and more months in store before rain is expected, Los Padres National Forest is imposing added restrictions on visitors in hopes of avoiding a wildfire.

The additional restrictions are necessary because forest moisture levels are down to "56 percent and dropping," according to the Forest Service, which added that, below the critical 60 percent level, fires become erratic and hard to control.

Starting Wednesday, wood and charcoal fires and camp stoves using gas or other pressurized or jellied fuel are off limits everywhere but in designated campfire sites where campground managers are present or patrols are frequent.

Smoking also will be prohibited outdoors throughout the forest except in the designated campfire sites.

Rules already in effect include a requirement for campfire permits, a ban on recreational target shooting, a rule limiting motorized vehicles to roads and designated trails, and a requirement for spark arresters on vehicle engines.

Designated campfire-use sites in the Santa Barbara Ranger District include the day-use areas South Coast residents use most often, such as Falls, Live Oak, Lower Oso, Red Rock and White Rock.

Campgrounds where fires and stoves will be allowed with permits include Fremont, Los Prietos, Middle Santa Ynez, Mono, P-Bar Flat, Paradise, Sage Hill, Upper Oso and Lower Caliente (or Rock Camp).

A complete list of campfire-use sites in the Monterey, Santa Lucia, Ojai and Mount Pinos ranger districts is available at the forest's Web site, www.fs.fed.us/r5/lospadres. Information about access to recreational target shooting at the Winchester Gun Club and Ojai Valley Gun Club within the national forest also is on the Web site.

So far this fire season, Los Padres has seen 55 blazes, according to a prepared statement. The largest was the 1,127-acre Cachuma fire in early May.