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Navajo Fire believed to be started by campfire

Navajo Fire.JPG
Posted at 5:52 PM, May 09, 2022

Fire officials say a fire that started Sunday afternoon in the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Margarita may have been started by a campfire.

The Navajo Fire burned 31 acres and is 80 percent contained as of Monday afternoon.

“In the national forest, a lot of the fuels out here are very dry,” said Matthew Sanders, Los Padres National Forest Engine Captain and Incident Commander Trainee. “If they're going to have any kind of campfire in any kind of the permitted campsites, then you make sure they're bringing extra water with them and some kind of tool to be able to extinguish the fire.”

Firefighters credit the quick containment of the fire to the immediate response from multiple units.

“I don't think we would have caught this as quickly as we did in the first hour-and-a-half of this incident,” said Sanders. “We had three or four CAL FIRE engines, two helicopters, air tankers, and then we had the Forest Service response.”

“With the high winds and the hotter temperatures and lower humidity, having campfires can be pretty dangerous,” said Adan Orozco, CAL FIRE SLO Public Information Officer.

Fire restrictions in the Los Padres National Forest will likely soon be elevated with the rise in temperatures and windy conditions.

“We are going to get to a point really quick with the winds and all the hot weather, the dry fuel, all the brush nearby that we're going to end up going into full restrictions,” said Sanders. “Then it'll be zero campfires again. That's the number one way we can protect the forest.”

For people starting campfires, fire officials say it is important to have the tools to keep it under control.

“Everyone likes to have the campfire every time they go camping,” said Sanders. “Keeping it small, something that's negligible, that would be the number one key.”

“Have some sort of water source available, a garden hose, a bucket of water, or a pressurized water extinguisher,” said Orozco. “Always be prepared and have those tools with you.”

They say it's also essential to be aware of the laws of the campgrounds.

“Check to see what those ordinances are,” said Orozco. “Has the burning been canceled in that county for that campground? Do your homework ahead of time before you show up.”

The Navajo Fire is still being investigated, but the belief is the fire was started due to a campfire.