If you’re planning on camping in the Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara County, there are some new changes you’ll want to know about to avoid a hefty fine.
New fire restrictions are in place effective immediately for Santa Barbara’s front country. The goal is to prevent wildfires which are getting bigger and more catastrophic year after year.
“Let there be no doubt, we are in a crisis,” said Chris Stubbs, Los Padres National Forest Deputy Forest Supervisor.
In 2017, the Thomas Fire was the largest wildfire in California history at 280,000 acres.
“Today, it's number eight,” Stubbs said. “And in four years, it dropped down seven places. We have million-acre fires now.”
The Forest Service will be doing more fuels projects and more prescribed burns. For the first time, it’s also putting an end to all open flame fires on a year-round basis. This includes wood and charcoal fires within the front country through Feb. 24, 2024.
“What you can see from Carpinteria, Summerland, Goleta, Santa Barbara when you look towards the mountains is the area where we have this campfire restriction,” Stubbs explained.
Fire officials say most of the wildfires within the Los Padres National Forest are human-caused. The area is also home to sundowner winds that we’ve witnessed during the countless devastating fires in the area.
“Any unwanted, unextinguished campfire can ignite the next fire that burns down the hill so this fire restriction is really important for this area because of the weather and the threat here is unique,” said Chief Jim Harris, Los Padres National Forest.
With new signs warning of the restrictions now posted, those who are caught with an open flame now face fines up to $10,000.
“This is definitely going to go a long way toward helping us prevent fires from occurring in the first place,” said Chief Greg Fish, Carpinteria Summerland Fire Protection District.
Those who have a valid California campfire permit are allowed to use portable lanterns or stoves that run on propane, gel petroleum, and pressurized liquid fuel.
The Forest Service plans to treat 20 million acres of land over the next 10 years.