We may have set our clocks ahead last March to let more light in for the approaching Spring, but yesterday the rangers at Angeles National Forest set the fire-danger arrow forward to "Very High" -- not to suggest how stoned they were, but to warn that summer is in full swing and that grasses growing below 4,500 feet have cured, meaning that anything can set off a new fire nightmare. This year's warning change comes a full month earlier than 2008's Very High alarm. Some stats bear out the danger:
"Since the level was raised to 'High' on May 17," the ANF Web site reports, "firefighters from the Angeles National Forest have responded to seventy-nine (79) wildfires in and around the Forest. The two largest fires of the year have occurred in the last nine days."
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The U.S. Forest Service urges us to use a resource about as short in supply as water -- common sense. This means no parking on dry grass, drive only on the designated roads and use spark arrestors with chain saws. (Hear that, Evil Dead re-enactors?) Open fires are still allowed, but only in campgrounds and picnic sites with fire rings or fixed grills. Backpackers, believe it or not, can still use propane or gas stoves, but gathered-wood fires are definitely out.
As it turns out, there are two higher fire levels -- Extreme and
Critical (sounds like some editors around here) -- but hopefully we can
get by this summer without pushing that arrow further to the right.