posterAs of Thursday, June 19, U.S. Forest Service officials are increasing fire use restrictions on the San Bernardino National Forest because the summer weather is beginning to raise the seasonal fire danger. As if serving as an omen, a small fire ignited near the Cranston Ranger Station in Valle Vista the day tighter restrictions were imposed.

As California’s three-year drought continues, the forest has experienced below-average winter snow and rainfall. During the spring, several Santa Ana wind events, along with warm, dry weather leading to drier fuel conditions, occurred in Southern California.

The seasonal weather outlook predicts above-normal temperatures and low humidity, which could create the potential for large fires.

With the current and forecasted conditions, forest officials are taking steps to prevent human-caused fires and raise public awareness. Most wildfires on the San Bernardino National Forest are human-caused and increased restrictions are designed to reduce wildfires.

Forest visitors are reminded to exercise caution when visiting the national forest and maintain a higher level of awareness with the increased fire risk. Travelers through the forest should remain on designated roads and never park on dry brush or grass.

SBNF officials have imposed the following fire restrictions and guidelines:

• Wood and charcoal fires are permitted only in developed campgrounds and picnic grounds, and within agency-provided fire rings or camp stoves.
• Wood and charcoal fires are not permitted at Yellow Post campsites.
• Campfire permits are required for propane and gas stoves and lanterns used outside all developed recreation sites.
• Recreational shooting is limited to public shooting ranges operated under special use permit only, except those engaged in legal hunting.
• An approved spark arrester is required for any internal combustion engine operated on designated forest routes. These include chainsaws, generators, motorcycles and off-highway vehicles.
• Smoking is limited to an enclosed vehicle or building, or within a developed recreation site.
• Fireworks are always prohibited on the SBNF.

The U.S. Forest Service will be aggressively citing anyone not complying with posted restrictions. Violation of these prohibitions is subject to punishment by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than six months or both, as Class B misdemeanors under federal law. Violators may also be responsible for resource damage, suppression costs and any injuries that occur if found liable for causing a wildfire.

Forest visitors are encouraged to “Know Before You Go” and call ahead to the local ranger station to check on location conditions and restrictions. Idyllwild Ranger Station is at 54270 Pine Crest Ave. The phone number is 909-382-2922.

The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center is at 51-500 Highway 74 in Palm Desert and the phone number is 760-862-9984.