The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) announced on Friday that total outdoor burning bans would be enacted in the counties of San Mateo and Santa Cruz ahead of Labor Day weekend.
Ideal wildfire conditions in the county, including high winds, high temperatures, and dry vegetation, as well as wildfire suppression resources being tied up across the state, including in the large Dixie and Caldor Fires in Northern California, helped Cal Fire come to their decision early Friday.
According to Cal Fire officials, fires such as campfires, warning fires, ceremonial fires, bonfires, and open flame barbeques will not be allowed. While charcoal only barbeques will be allowed with either campground or local park permission, Cal Fire warns that anyone starting a fire under the few exceptions will be held liable for any and all damages.
“The public is cautioned that they are liable for any fire they lose control over,” noted Cal Fire on Friday.
While Cal Fire has enacted outdoor burn bans before, most notably in the Counties of Sonoma, Lake, Napa, Solano, Yola, and Colusa earlier in May, Friday’s ban was the strictest burn ban to date, going well beyond previous bans that only went after certain types of bans such as outdoor debris/bonfire situations.
“It really shows just how thin firefighters are stretched out in the Northern part of the state,” Charles Emmerson, a home wildfire proofing consultant in Northern California, told the Globe on Friday. “They’ve never really gone this far before in terms of burn bans. But most wildfire fighters are at the Caldor Fire threatening a lot of Lake Tahoe communities and being less than 30% contained, or at the Dixie Fire, one of the largest in state history and only a little over 50% contained.”
“And officials know just how crazy holidays can get too. But they don’t want any added risk right now. So if that means some ruined barbeques and gatherings for better fire safety, that’s what they’re going to do. Anything to reduce the risk and not having wildfire crews being stretched out even more. And remember, Cal Fire has had to deal with a lot of wildfires started for stupid reasons in the past, like the one started by faulty fireworks at a gender reveal party. They really don’t want to inform people that their subdivision burned down because of some kids having a bonfire spread out of control and that they couldn’t do much due to wildfire crews being unable to come out. Fire bans are the last tool in their arsenal to lessen high degrees of risk”
The outdoor burning ban in San Mateo County and Santa Cruz County goes into effect at noon on Friday. Cal Fire officials gave no end date tp the ban due to the high risk and spread out wildfire suppression resources. However, the ban is currently expected to continue through Labor Day weekend at the very least due to the local increase of outdoor fire activity at that time.