Fire restrictions in effect at Tahoe National Forest
July 28, 2017
Anyone who was near Lake Tahoe last week probably recalls the few days of smoke that drifted into the region from the Detwiler fire in Mariposa County.
Fires are, unfortunately, business as usual for most California residents so fire prevention is a big part of summertime life.
One of the more recent measures to prevent forest fires is with the fire restriction that was put in place at Tahoe National Forest (TNF) Tuesday, July 25. Tahoe National Forest is on the northwest side of Lake Tahoe and covers over 1-million acres of private and public land in six counties, including a small portion in El Dorado County.
"After record precipitation this past winter, hot and dry summer weather has created conditions on the forest that could support large fire growth," said Eli Ilano, TNF supervisor.
According to Michael Woodbridge, public information officer at TNF, the winter precipitation also altered the typical schedule in which fire restrictions typically go into effect. "It pushed back our fire season by about three weeks," said Woodbridge. "We have been starting fire restrictions at the beginning of July in recent years, but conditions hadn't dried out quite yet so there was still dampness in the fuels and forest."
Woodbridge said that one of the reasons for the lower elevation fires that have occurred, like Detwiler, is because those areas got a jump-start on drying out.
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According to TNF, the restrictions still allow for things like campfires, but there are guidelines about locations. Even with a California campfire permit, campfires can only be built in designated areas.
"It's not that having reports of escaped camp fires is what causes fire restrictions," said Woodbridge. "We watch for things like fuels moisture … and the [energy release component]. There are a number of things we look at."
Woodbridge said that TNF is now experiencing conditions that would likely accelerate even a small fire. He said more vegetation growing, humidity and wind are all factors that come into play when considering a fire restriction.
For visitors with a California campfire permit, lanterns, gas stoves, or other liquid and jellied petroleum fuels are allowed. A campfire permit can be picked up at Forest Service offices — there's a local office at 35 College Drive in South Lake Tahoe.
Open flames from a torch or any device burning acetylene fuel are completely prohibited. Smoking is prohibited except in a closed vehicle, building, on a designated recreation site or at a location that is has at least a diameter of three feet that is clear of anything flammable.
There are also restrictions that relate to motor vehicles, according to TNF. Vehicles with internal combustion engines must drive only on roads, trails and areas that are designated for vehicular use. Any cross-country travel between designated areas is prohibited.
Woodbridge said that these restrictions and fire danger in general will likely remain until the region begins to experience lower temperatures and more moisture.
"Our fire adjective is now high," he said. "And it will likely fluctuate between high and very high for the rest of the summer, until things start to cool down and rain returns."