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New fire restrictions now in effect for Los Padres National Forest

New fire danger restrictions are now in place throughout the Los Padres National Forest.

“With the level of fires that we have in the state and the amount personnel committed to those fires, we just can’t afford to have a new emerging fire,” said Santa Lucia Ranger District Battalion Chief Chip Laugharn.

The U.S Forest Service has enacted the rules, which will impact the entire national forest that stretches more than 200 miles along the California coastline. It includes portions of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Ventura and Kern counties.

“The main thing is no wood or charcoal anywhere in the Los Padres National Forest, so camp stoves only and you need to have a valid permit in a designated campsite,” said Laugharn.

People that have a valid California Campfire permit will be allowed to use portable gas stoves and lanterns within designated campfire use sites only. In addition, all flammable material must be removed within five feet in all directions from the gas-using equipment.

“They have to understand they are not at a campsite with a bunch of concrete,” said Figueroa Station Wildland Firefighter Taylor Delgado. “They are in the wilderness and extreme fires do happen as we see up north and down south.”

Delgado spent part of his Wednesday stapling up warning signs throughout the popular Figueroa Campground that is located high above the Santa Ynez Valley.

“Just reminding (campers) they are in the wilderness and a campfire or a cigarette, spark or flame can start a fire really quick,” Delgado said. “There’s a real large potential for fires to go extreme very rapidly, so any measures that we can take to inhibit that will help us as firefighters and the public themselves.”

Recreational target is banned in all areas of the forest unless authorized by a special use permit. However, hunting with a valid California hunting license during open hunting season is exempt from the restriction.

Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles, buildings or designated campfire use site. Fireworks are not allowed at any time in the national forest.

There is also a year-round restriction on the 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 that use.

Any who caught violating the any of the restrictions is subject to a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

Should a violation cause a wildfire, people could also be held financially responsible for the cost of the firefighting efforts, which could run into the millions of dollars.

For more information, visit the Los Padres National Forest website.

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