Firefighters throughout the southwest continue to work around the clock to contain several large brush fires. The recent outburst of flames in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado has put local forest officials on high alert. They are pleading for campers to be cautious especially during the Fourth of July holiday.
Tim Samuelson and his family are part of the huge numbers of people expected to make their way to the San Bernardino forest for the holiday. They escaped to Idyllwild for some fresh air and time away from the city. However, the beautiful scenery does not come without some warnings. "Well you just have to take some normal precautions to make sure you contain the fire," said Samuelson. "Whether it's in the fire pit or with your barbeque and things like that."
The warnings come primarily from the state park police. Officer Robert Peek and his team keep an eye on the campers especially during the high traffic time. He explains why it is important to take every precaution during this dry season. "We have very little moisture over the winter months," said Peek. "The snow pack's already gone at the higher elevations, and the fire danger's very high right now."
Warning signs line the road leading to Idyllwild. They show the fire danger at "high" or "very high." The hot, dry conditions paired with steady wind gusts can make the forest a tinderbox. "Watch your campfires, days like today, especially when the wind kicks up," said Captain Mike Mulhall from the Idyllwild Fire Department. "We ask that you keep your campfires down, if not put them out."
The San Bernardino forest has not seen a major fire in a few decades, but that makes it more susceptible for flames. The conditions here are similar even to those of the fire-ravaged areas of Colorado and New Mexico.
"It can happen here just as easy here as it has in Colorado, Arizona, or New Mexico," said Officer Peek. "The fuels here are extremely dry and it's been a long time since a major fire here. Not that I want one by any means, but it's a very real possibility."
Not only are campers asked to put their campfires out completely, they're also reminded that no fireworks are allowed in the San Bernardino forest during the Fourth of July holiday.