Placerville, CA, May 2015 – The King Fire was the backdrop for the official kick-off of Wildfire Awareness Week on Monday when officials from fire, natural resource, and emergency management agencies gathered at the Pacific Heliport on the Eldorado National Forest to urge the public to get ready for fire season.

With California in the fourth year of a drought and minimal rain and snow this winter, the kingfireEldorado National Forest will be very vulnerable to wildfires. Forest visitors may be the best defense to prevent another King Fire.

“A heavy responsibility falls on forest visitors to keep the forest safe, said Forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree. “Take the time to find out the current conditions and practice fire safe recreation use”.

What can visitors do to make a difference? Visitors should keep their vehicles well maintained, and stay on designated roads and trails.  Vehicles are the cause of 14%  of wildfires in California.  The exhaust system on a vehicle is hot enough to ignite dry vegetation. Also, drivers should keep their vehicles check their tire pressure and make sure nothing is dragging on the ground like a tow chain which can throw sparks.  The “One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire” campaign provides additional tips on how to safely use vehicles and equipment athttp://www.preventwildfireca.org/Equipment-Use/.  A free Motor Vehicle Use Map is available at all forest District Offices.

The campfire is the iconic forest experience for many visitors.  However, campfires are only allowed when fire danger is low to moderate.  Fire restrictions are likely to go into effect in June for several months due to drought conditions this year. During restrictions, only gas stoves are allowed.  All campfires outside of designated campgrounds, including charcoal barbeques, gas stoves and gas lanterns require a California Campfire Permit and permits can only be issued to individuals 18 years of age or older.  Enjoying a campfire responsibly is critical for fire safe recreation. When obtaining a California Campfire Permit, find out about any restrictions that are in place in the area you will be visiting.  Your campfire permit is valid from the date issued until the end of the calendar year; it may be used in any National Forest in California. California Campfire permits are available free of charge at our Ranger Stations or online at http://www.preventwildfireca.org/Campfire-Permit/.

When campfires are allowed, choose a safe location for your campfire and clear a minimum of 10 feet around your fire. A responsible adult should be in attendance at all times. If you are going to be away from the campfire, put it out. Most importantly, extinguish your fire with the “drown, stir, and feel method”. That means drown the fire with water, stir the water into the ashes with your shovel so it reaches all the hot spots, and use the back of your hand to feel for any heat.

As vegetation becomes drier, the Eldorado National Forest will implement fire restrictions to reduce the potential for wildfire starts.  Visitors should expect fire restrictions to be earlier in the season this year due to the dry weather.  Visitors can help protect the forest by spreading the word about fire restrictions and fire safe recreation.  Educate your friends and family and the people camping next to you if you see a campfire when only gas stoves are allowed.  If you see an illegal, unattended or abandoned campfire, report it immediately to the nearest Ranger Station. With thousands of visitors each weekend, there is a lot of potential for human-caused fire – but there can also be a lot of eyes keeping watching out for the forest.

Defensible space.  Forest staff will also be working with recreation cabin owners to identify vegetation that needs to be cleared to create defensible space on forest land around their cabins.  The Eldorado National Forest manages the largest recreation cabin program in the National Forest System with 965 recreation cabin permittees.

Please visit our website at www.fs.usda.gov/eldorado  for visitor information, maps, and to find out current conditions or status of roads, campgrounds, and fire restrictions.