Cal Fire declares high fire danger this weekend for three counties


Firefighters in San Mateo, San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties are preparing for a windy weekend with warmer temperatures and low humidity, a combination that adds up to high danger of fire.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire issued a ban on Friday (Dec. 15) that, with some exceptions, prohibits outdoor fires in unincorporated areas. Cal Fire expects to lift the ban on Tuesday, Dec. 19, Division Chief Rich Sampson said in a statement.

A high-wind warning takes effect Friday at 10 p.m. in anticipation of gusty winds from the north and northeast in the higher elevations in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay area. The high-wind watch ends at 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 17.

Cal Fire is pre-positioning firefighting equipment and firefighters in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, the statement said.

Unincorporated lands in San Mateo County include La Honda and open spaces west of Skyline Boulevard, Huddart Park and most of Wunderlich Park near Woodside, and Los Trancos Woods near Portola Valley.

Asked to comment, Chief Dan Ghiorso of the Woodside Fire Protection District said the Woodside district was aware of Cal Fire's action but will not be following the state's lead by pre-positioning staff or equipment.

"It is an event which we take very seriously as you don't have to have heat for a fire to spread quickly with the winds," Ghiorso added.

Denise Enea, the Woodside district fire marshal, said open fires are never allowed inside the district, and that campfires are currently prohibited in Huddart and Wunderlich parks.

Fire pits with non-combustible inserts and fueled by natural gas or propane are allowed, as are outdoor fireplaces equipped with approved spark arrestors and installed under a permit from a town or county building department.

Cal Fire may issue citations to people lighting fires without a permit, and offenders can be held financially and criminally responsible for fires that get out of control, the statement said.

The ban does not extend to well-tended campfires in organized campgrounds or on private property with the permission of the property owner. "Campfires may be permitted if the campfire is maintained in such a manner as to prevent its spread to the wildland," the statement says.

— Dave Boyce

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