5 tips for camping during wildfire season

Many Southern Californians are camping this summer, but unfortunately, prime camping season is also prime wildfire season.

This summer, several fires have ravaged popular camping areas. The Whittier Fire recently forced nearly three thousand campers in the Lake Cachuma region to evacuate their campsites.

So how can people stay safe, and be mindful of fire threat while camping?

Andrew Madsen, public affairs officer for Los Padres National Forest, provided some tips for camping during wildfire season. 

1. Call ahead before you go. 

"We always encourage visitors to know before you go - if you're going to an area that you're not as familiar with, make contact with the local ranger station ahead of time. 

Be familiar with what the weather forecast is calling for... [Wildfires] are always a risk and so folks should be aware that based on weather conditions, extreme heat, and winds that the possibility of a wildfire is always present."

2. Visit a region you're familiar with.

"Knowing some history of the area is key so if you're going to a place that you've been in the past then you might know some of the fire history in the area, [such as] are you going during a time when that particular area tends to experience fire starts? This comes into play when you're trying to figure out where you want to go, and what time you want to go, and maybe deciding not to go if conditions indicate extreme fire weather is on the way."

3. Check on which fire restrictions are in effect.

The Forest Service implements specific fire restriction levels based on the current wildfire threat. If you're camping during fire season, you could be visiting during a Level 2 or Level 3 restriction phase. 

"[Fire restrictions] are typically based on the level of moisture that's in the vegetation, or what we call fuel, so when the fuel moisture levels drop below a certain percentage, that triggers our restrictions... Level 2 prohibits dispersed campfires, for instance in the backcountry. If the fuel moisture dips even lower we'll go to level 3, which then prohibits campfires even inside the campgrounds and fire rings."

4. Get a campfire permit. 

"Everyone who has an open fire needs to have a valid California Fire campfire permit on their person when they are having the fire. Those can be downloaded online, or you can go into any ranger district office and get one."

5. And of course, practice general fire safety. 

"Just be very aware of your conditions while you're out there. . . We generally encourage people to have a responsible person at all times monitoring the fire, have a shovel and a pail of water close by, and make sure that your campfire is completely extinguished."

To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.