Thursday, June 12, 2014

Campfire Restrictions in the King Range

As of Wednesday, June 11, due to dry fuels and increasing fire danger in the North Coast region, the King Range National Conservation Area has implemented campfire restrictions.

The conditions in the King Range are not conducive for campfires during the summer.
That is, it is very DRY and often very windy.
Even if it’s foggy the vegetation is still very dry. Also, conditions change frequently and rapidly here on the coast. I very often see the weather change from calm and foggy to hot and windy in an hour or less.

Under the restrictions, all campfires and charcoal barbecues are prohibited except in specifically posted campgrounds and recreation sites. In other words, in the King Range, campfires are only allowed in designated campfire rings at our developed recreation sites/campgrounds: Mattole, Tolkan, Honeydew, Nadelos, and Wailaki campgrounds (these are sites that you drive to).

Portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are allowed outside of posted recreation sites with a valid California campfire permit. In the King Range, the Wilderness Permit that you are required to obtain and sign serves this purpose.

Please be extremely careful with the use of portable camp stoves, especially stoves that require priming.

There have been numerous fires in the past several years due to camp stoves, usually in the priming stage. Anytime you use a stove be sure it is in a safe location away from dry fuels. In the instructions for the Whisperlite stove Mountain Safety Research says to, “keep combustibles 4 feet away from all sides.” MORE than 4 feet would be a VERY good idea, especially in the extremely dry and windy conditions of the Lost Coast.

The North Coast Journal published an article on February of 2013 by a backpacker who accidentally started a fire on the Lost Coast. The article is well written, eye-opening and very educational. Here is an excerpt:

“Right then, a gust of wind hit, and this ball of flame took on a life of its own, jumping maybe 10 feet to my right and landing on a steep bank of dry grass. In seconds, the entire hillside was a crackling wall of fire. And that's all it took. It was out of control.”

                                          Photo courtesy of Barry Evans and Louisa Rogers 

Also in the North Coast Journal:

Advice for Backpackers (Novice and Veteran)

I started backpacking and camping when I was 13, and I'm now 70. I'm a 57-year wilderness veteran, Queen Scout (U.K. equivalent of an Eagle Scout), Sierra Club member, champion of outdoor ethics, and I don't like open wood fires (too dangerous).

So how do I explain the fact that I burned down almost a square mile of wild grassland? And what can I say that might help prevent this from happening to anyone else?

1. Think "fire." When we picked our campsite, I was thinking flat area, water, beautiful view. In my over-confidence, I barely gave a thought to what should have been my No. 1 priority: a safe area for a fire, clear of any vegetation.

2. Think "wind." The wind blows down the Lost Coast hard, which is why everyone hikes north-to-south. We'd been seduced by the previous half-hour lull, instead of assuming that the next big gust might be seconds away.

3. Think "stove safety." Hundreds of safe, non-eventful lightings of our stove led to a sense of complacency. Stoves are not foolproof. They can leak. Fuel left in the bowl does evaporate -- fast, as we found out. A Coleman-fuel stove like ours sometimes blows out in wind. If it does, it should be allowed to cool before re-lighting, to prevent flare-ups.

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