With the onset of brush-fire season, the Los Padres National Forest will begin imposing restrictions on visitors Sunday.
Campfires will be prohibited outside designated camping areas, and smokers will be able to light up only in campgrounds and enclosed vehicles. Permits will be required for anyone using gas camping stoves outside maintained campgrounds.
"In spite of the rains we got in March, we're still in a sustained drought," said Kathy Good, spokeswoman for the forest, which covers 560,000 acres of northern Ventura County. "It's still extremely dry, with a lot of vegetation that can carry fire."
Violators face fines of up to $500. Good said they also could be held responsible for paying the cost of fighting any fire they cause.
Over the past decade, an average of 20,000 acres of the forest have been lost each year to wildfires, Good said. Fire danger has increased in recent years, she said, because tinder has built up in the backcountry.