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Fire restrictions go into effect ahead of Memorial Day weekend

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Preparation for wildfire season is starting, and the Bureau of Land Management is already putting fire restrictions in place.

Those restrictions went into effect Thursday.

Public lands managed by the BLM in western Kern, eastern Fresno, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties are all subject to these restrictions.

Lake Isabella, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Keysville Special Recreation Management Area and San Joaquin River George are also included.

“We're seeing a lot of dry vegetation, higher temperatures, lower relative humidity, and so we are seeing more and more fire starts over the last couple of weeks here," said Gabe Garcia, the field manager for the BLM Bakersfield field office.

He said there have already been a total of five fires that were put out before they grew too big.

Although those fires are still under investigation, he said they were more than likely caused by humans. The BLM reported that 95 percent of the state's wildfires are human-caused.

"Some of them are caused by campfires that escape on a windy day, or someone doesn't tend that fire properly. And so we've had the number of camp fires that escape and cause wildland fires," he said.

“Sparks from vehicles, sparks from trailers have caused fires in the past. Smoking cigarettes have caused fires in some of our camping areas." he continued.

The new restrictions banned several potential dangers including open campfires, motorized vehicles or tools powered by internal combustion engines on the road unless on a designated trail, smoking, and charcoal barbeques.

However, Garcia said people are still allowed to use camping stoves, or anything with a valve that is able to be turned off to control the flame.

The Sequoia National Forest Kern River Ranger District will also have fire restrictions in place, but not until mid-June.

There will be similar rules, so anything with a shut off valve will be allowed, but not wood and charcoal based fires.

For those who chose to not follow the rules and potentially cause a catastrophic wildfire, both agencies said there will be consequences.

“If someone has a campfire in one of the areas that's not allowed to have a campfire, you face a fine of up to about $400 fine, so it's best to know your area, know the rules," said Robert Sollami, the district fire management officer on the Sequoia National Forest Kern River Ranger District.

Although campfires are still currently allowed on land under the Forest Service, you still need to have a California campfire permit, and follow its rules.

He and Garcia said it’s important that everyone knows the rules of the land, so they can keep themselves and the environment safe.

"We've had several fires within the Lake Isabella area that have destroyed homes over the last several years. So these are all things that we want to try to avoid if we can, and that's the reason why we put the restrictions on each year," said Garcia.

Garcia said these restrictions will remain in effect until the first major rainfall event of the fall.

To find out how to get a permit for the BLM-managed lands, click here.

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To find out how to get a permit for the Forest Service, click here.

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