Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Campfires Currently Prohibited

Do to the extremely dry conditions campfires are currently prohibited in the King Range National Conservation Area outside of developed recreation sites: Mattole, Honeydew, Wailaki, Nadelos, Horse Mountain, and Tolkan campgrounds.

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.

If you are backpacking in the King Range Campfires are prohibited  

If you see a fire ring such as this:

This does not mean you are permitted to have a campfire. The Bureau of Land Management did not build these rings. We maintain and dismantle these fire rings but never build them.

Every year since I’ve been here we have had an escaped campfire or fire started from a camp stove.

Use extreme caution with camp stoves – be well away from dry grasses.

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 NorthCoast 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.”

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.

There have been many escaped campfire or fires started from camp stoves the past several years.

See pictures below of these incidences:

 Photo courtesy of Barry Evans and Louisa Rogers 
Spanish Flat, escaped camp stove

Spanish Flat, escaped campfire

Kinsey Creek, escaped campfire

Cooskie Creek, escaped campfire

Spanish Flat, escaped campfire;
The high winds threw a small ember into a large structure of driftwood, igniting it nearly instantly. 

Cooskie Creek, escaped campfire;
It was fortunate that this did not catch the adjacent hillside on fire

If you have questions don't hesitate to contact me
(give at least a few days for a response)

Your Wilderness Ranger, 


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