Half Dome, from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. (James Chang/Flickr)
Half Dome, from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. (James Chang/Flickr)

Yosemite National Park is banning back-country campfires in an attempt to prevent human-caused blazes.

The ban will go into effect for wilderness areas below a 6,000-feet elevation. The National Park Service says that fires are still allowed in designated campgrounds and picnic areas throughout the park.

Park officials, in an announcement released Wednesday, say you can thank three consecutive dry winters for the ban:

Yosemite National Park is implementing fire restrictions 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 1970’s. Due to these conditions, the order is designed to reduce the chances of human caused fires in some of the park’s driest areas. Vegetation throughout the park is drier than at this time last year and increased care and caution are required to protect park resources and ensure visitor and staff safety.

The park is also asking smokers to be extra careful with their cigarette butts and to dispose of them “in the appropriate trash receptacle.”

The back-country campfire ban comes amid a spate of Sierra Nevada thunderstorms. Some of those storms, fed by monsoon moisture flowing from the south, have produced occasional heavy rain and prompted flash flood watches and warnings. But many other storm cells roll across the mountains with dry lightning that has a high potential for sparking wildfires.

Officials in Yosemite are acting in part to try to reduce the possibility of a blaze like last year’s Rim Fire. That conflagration, the third-biggest wildfire in the state’s history, burned more than 250,000 acres — an area nearly nine times the size of San Francisco.

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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