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California

Cal Fire suspends burn permits in four Southern California counties as fire season looms

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Firefighters battle the Canyon 2 fire in Anaheim Hills in October 2017 in Anaheim.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times )

With fire season approaching, authorities on Monday suspended permits for outdoor residential burning in areas of Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Imperial counties where the state provides fire services.

California had a wet winter and spurts of rain fell over the state through late May, but there is no stopping fire season. Fire experts and climatologists have said the extra moisture will probably worsen the fire outlook because it will allow brush to grow even more before it dries out.

Residents are not allowed to burn dead vegetation or set other open fires in areas where the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has jurisdiction.

Campfires are also restricted to facilities and pits in established campgrounds open to the public. Cooking fires are allowed with a valid permit when no other means of cooking are available. A permit and on-site inspection are required for warming fires.

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The suspension does not cover campfires on private property, officials said.

“Although winter and spring rains were plentiful, fire danger always lurks as the grasses that these rains produced have begun to dry out, creating a fire hazard,” Cal Fire Riverside County Chief Shawn Newman said.

Experts have said recent rainfall will probably delay the start of the state’s grass fire season, which typically begins in May or early June, by at least a few weeks.

A report published in May by the National Interagency Fire Center found that while the fire season was off to a slow start, California can still expect “above normal” potential for large wildfires this summer as heavy crops of grasses sprouted by the wet winter dry out.

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Cal Fire has already responded to more than 800 wildfires this year, officials said.

“The dry, hot weather that fueled massive fires last year will return again this year, so it is up to the public to be ready,” Cal Fire director Thom Porter said.

javier.panzar@latimes.com

@jpanzar


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