Smoking and campfires by visitors using public lands will be restricted this week in anticipation of an early start to the fire season.
With grasses and vegetation drying out quickly in the hot weather, restrictions will start Friday on public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the Nevada Division of Forestry.
The restrictions prohibit fire-inducing activity, including open burning, smoking outdoors, campfires and fireworks.
The Nevada Division of Forestry restrictions within the Sierra Fire Protection District prohibit operating vehicles off of existing hard-surface gravel roads or dirt roads in wildland areas. People operating vehicles or equipment traveling on or using wildland areas are required to carry at least an axe, shovel and 1 gallon of water.
All agencies recommend that people carry cell phones while in wildland areas or national forests to report wildfires.
Propane or white-gas stoves are acceptable for use during fire restrictions. Charcoal grills are considered fire hazards as charcoal burns longer and hotter than wood and may appear to be cold when embers are still hot enough to ignite wildfires when spread by wind.
Leonard Wehking, fire management officer for the BLM's Carson City field office, said, unfortunately, people's actions need to be restricted to prevent fire disasters.
"We've got to provide that safety measure," Wehking said.
Though western Nevada experienced a wet spring, grass and brush are drying out quicker than normal due to recent high temperatures.
"It's earlier than usual by quite a bit," Wehking said. "It turned hot real quick, and some of our scientific data says we're right where we were last year."
The Cannon Fire, which ignited on June 15, 2002, took three men's lives and burned 22,750 acres near Walker, Calif. The crew of a C-130A air tanker was killed after the plane lost its wings and crashed into a field in Walker.
"We weren't in restriction (before the Cannon Fire), and we probably should have been," Wehking said.
Violators can be fined a maximum of $10,000 or imprisoned for a maximum of six months or both. Violations are considered Class B misdemeanors under federal law. People may also be responsible for resource damage, suppression costs and any injuries that occur, if they are found liable.
FIRE SEASON 2003
-- Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or store fire, except a portable stove using gas or pressurized liquid fuel, outside of a developed fee campground or picnic area, except by permit.
-- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or at a developed campground or picnic area.
-- Welding or operating an acetylene torch with open flames, except by permit.
-- Using or causing to be used any explosive, except by permit.
-- Firing a tracer or incendiary device or possessing/using fireworks (illegal in Nevada).
-- Open burning
-- BLM: All areas, roads and trails on BLM-Carson City field office lands outside of a developed recreation site, with the exception of Sand Mountain Recreation Area and within 100 yards of Walker Lake and between Walker Lake and U.S. Highway 95 where campfires are permitted.
-- Forest Service: All areas, roads and trails below 8,000 feet within the boundary of the Carson Ranger District and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
-- NDF: All areas, roads and trails within the boundaries of the Sierra Forest Fire Protection District in Carson, Douglas and Washoe counties. Restrictions also apply in Storey County.
ON THE NET
Sierra Front Fire information