Fire Restrictions Spreading In Western National Parks As Hot, Dry Conditions Persist

Mid-summer's arrival in western parts of the National Park System have been accompanied by restrictions on campfires in such parks as Sequoia, Mesa Verde, and Yosemite.

In Yosemite National Park in California, below 6,000 feet in elevation campfires are not permitted beyond designated campgrounds and picnic areas. Park officials say the restrictions are necessary "due to several years of exceptional drought conditions and high fire danger. The winters of 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 were all below average precipitation. The Yosemite Region, along with all of California, is in the third year of drought. Conditions are comparable to the major drought of the 1970s."

Along with the campfire restriction, Yosemite visitors who smoke cigarettes in the park are urged to be cautious with their discarded cigarette butts and only place them in the appropriate trash receptacle. Additionally, smoking is only allowed in designated areas, inside a vehicle, or at campgrounds where fires are allowed.

At Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, officials say the "recent hot, dry, and breezy weather has resulted in extremely dry vegetation fuels throughout the park."

Due to the high fire danger, no open fires at all are permitted at this time. "This includes all the residences inside the park, Morefield Campground, and the Chapin Mesa picnic area," a park release said. "Pressurized gas stoves and contained charcoal grills (Weber or Smoky Joe grills) are permitted at Morefield Campground and the Chapin picnic area. No open wood burning fires are allowed in the campground fire rings or anywhere else in the park."

Visitors are permitted to smoke only inside enclosed vehicles.

At Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks in California, beginning on July 28 the park will:

* Prohibit both wood and barbecue fires at Potwisha, Buckeye Flat, or South Fork campgrounds.

· Prohibit wood or barbecue fires at Ash Mountain and Hospital Rock picnic areas.

· Prohibit wood or barbecue fires below 6,000 feet in the parks’ wilderness or backcountry areas. Year-round, site-specific wilderness fire restrictions also apply.

· Prohibit smoking below 6,000 feet, except within a campground or picnic area where wood and charcoal fires are allowed, an enclosed vehicle, a designated smoking area, or a building which allows smoking.

Gas, propane, alcohol, and tablet/cube stoves are allowed at all park campgrounds and picnic areas and throughout all elevation zones in the wilderness. Wood or barbecue fires are allowed at park campgrounds in the Cedar Grove, Grant Grove, Dorst, Lodgepole, and Mineral King areas and in all picnic areas other than Ash Mountain and Hospital Rock.

According to the National Interagency Fire Cache, fire danger currently is above normal in much of California, the Northwest and the Great Basin. Looking a bit down the road, the agency predicts that in August "above normal fire potential will continue over most of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho."

"Above normal conditions could possibly develop across the New England states and Four Corners area if short-term weather develops that would support fire outbreaks," the agency continued. "Below normal fire potential will continue over northern Idaho, Montana and portions of Wyoming, Colorado and South Dakota. Portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi will also continue to see below normal fire potential."