YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Ventura County

Briquette, Wood Fires Banned in Los Padres

Safety: U.S. forestry officials take the action in light of dry conditions. Campers are disappointed but understand the need.


Reacting to one of the driest fire seasons in memory, the U.S. Forest Service has banned all wood and charcoal briquette fires in Los Padres National Forest.

While forest officials don't anticipate a great outcry over the ban, which began Tuesday and will last indefinitely, they acknowledge it may disappoint some summer campers.

Count Marlene Wait of Somis among the disappointed. She and her husband, William, had been looking forward to cooking outdoor meals in Los Padres with their Dutch oven. But since the oven requires briquettes, it's now illegal to use the oven in the forest.

"In one hour I could have made stew, enchiladas, apple crisp," she said. "Now--thank goodness I brought pans."

She now plans to use a cooking stove.

She said the ban is probably practical, but dislikes the inconvenience and bristles at the implicit suggestion that some campers aren't responsible or cautious when dealing with cooking fires or barbecues.

"I can see the reason for [the ban]," she said. "But I don't have to like it."

The ban comes a little more than two weeks after crews extinguished the Wolf fire, which burned nearly 23,000 acres in Los Padres.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the fire, which cost more than $15 million to fight and clean up.

A look at the forestry lands shows why officials are warning that this is one of the most dangerous fire seasons in years.

At the Wheeler Gorge campsite Tuesday, brittle leaves littered the parched ground. A once-flowing creek trickled past and hillsides had taken on fall hues of orange, red and brown.

"It wouldn't take much to set this place off," said William Wait, surveying his surroundings.

"In August or September, I don't know if I'd even come over here."

The extremely dry conditions have also prompted forest officials to limit cigarette smoking to inside vehicles and buildings, developed campgrounds or sites with at least three feet of clearance.

"To be honest, I think the public has been expecting us to make this announcement," said Kathy Good, a Los Padres spokeswoman. "We can't afford to let a fire get established."

But campers still have alternatives to campfires, such as picnicking or using portable stoves, she said.

"There are still lots of ways to have fun," Good said.

Although the ban may spoil some of the ambience, hardy campers will make do, said Alex Washington, a Chatsworth resident who makes an annual Fourth of July trip to the Wheeler Gorge campgrounds with his family.

Family members said they understand the need for precautions. On this trip, they were cooking with a propane stove and playing rummy at night by flashlight and propane lamp.

"Anything to keep the forest safe," Washington said.

Los Angeles Times Articles