Cal Fire, East Bay Regional Park District issue extreme fire restrictions

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The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, has recently prohibited outdoor burning in several East Bay counties, as first reported by the Mercury News.

As a result, the East Bay Regional Park District, a system of parklands and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, has implemented extreme fire danger restrictions on all regional parks, according to its website.

“Our goal is to have no fires start,” said Cal Fire spokesperson Pam Temmermand. “We’re hoping through word of mouth … (it) will be enough to get people to comply.”

The East Bay Regional Park District includes 73 parks, encompassing 121,397 acres and 1,250 miles of trails, according to its website.

Open fires, campfires, wood burning and charcoal barbecues are prohibited. Gas- and propane-fueled stoves are the only exceptions to this rule. Use of gasoline-powered equipment outside of designated campgrounds or recreation areas is barred, according to the East Bay Regional Park District website.

Additionally, smoking is prohibited, and visitors must remove all flammable material 10 feet in all directions from their camp stoves, have access to a shovel and oversee their stoves at all times when they are in use.

According to the Cal Fire website, low relative humidity, strong winds, dry fuels and the possibility of dry lightning strikes are weather patterns that prompt a watch or warning.

“When conditions are dry with less relative humidity there just needs to be a spark to cause these fires,” said Berkeley Fire Department spokesperson Keith May in an email. “Many fire departments are stretched thin with their resources as they are sending crews to assist in state fires.”

Currently, BFD has deployed resources to the Carr Fire, Ferguson Fire and Donnell Fire, May said in an email.

For now, May advises the community to sign up for AC Alert — a system that provides information about earthquakes, fires, severe weather and other safety hazards — through the city of Berkeley webpage.

“The city of Berkeley is supportive of the ban that Cal Fire has put forth,” May said in an email. “We are currently looking at how that ban will affect our own city parks.”

AC Alert will assist Berkeley residents with critical information regarding life safety, according to May.

John Balmes, professor of environmental health sciences at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, stated that the most important groups that are impacted by poor air quality are those with pre-existing heart and lung disease, the young and the elderly.

“Despite what the president says about the climate change … climate change is real. … We are stretching our firefighting resources to the max,” Balmes said. “I’m worried that … we won’t be able to suppress (the fires).”

Contact Aarya Gupta at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aaryapgupta.