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Fire Crews On High Alert As Campers Head To The Mountains For Holiday Weekend

AGOURA HILLS (CBSLA) — A long holiday weekend means outdoor fun for the Kim family and their friends at Malibu Creek State Park.

Agoura Hills Camping
Locals and visitors alike are headed outdoors to enjoy the long holiday weekend, but fire crews say they're on high alert. (CBSLA)

"This is like an hour away from my home — from Montrose, California — so it's perfect," Chester Kim said.

They were lucky to get a campsite with campgrounds across the Southland booked solid for the second year in a row as travel restrictions and risks have families choosing to stay closer to home.

But more people camping can also mean more fire risk.

"We know we have a lot of new campers and they may not be aware of our fire restrictions," Lisa Cox, spokesperson for the San Bernardino National Forest, said.

Cox said rangers find abandoned illegal campfires on a daily basis.

"We want to make sure everybody understands that it's never OK to build a campfire on the ground in the forest," she said.

Especially this year with 85% of California already in extreme drought conditions and hot, dry weather expected in the Southland throughout the weekend. Cox said the risk of starting an illegal campfire, even in wetter and cooler conditions, can last long after campers leave.

""Even thought you may think you completely drowned the campfire and put it out, it doesn't always go completely out. Sometimes that fire can continue to burn underneath the soil," she said. "Weeks or months later wind could pick up and it could be exposed by animals digging at it or something, maybe even some food scraps got left with it, and they'll try to dig, and it'll actually potentially reignite an actual fire when no one's around."

In national forests and, locally, in the Santa Monica Mountains, fires are only allowed at park-provided camp rings. And, depending on the campsite, wood and charcoal may or may not be allowed, which is why campers should always check before they head out.

"Anything I light, like my Coleman stove or any mess that I turn on, I automatically look for a place where I can actually get rid of the flame," Johnny Soliz, a camper said. "I'm a nature lover, you know, and I see the destruction that fires cause. I want to prevent it if I can."

And, it's important to note, fireworks and explosives are never allowed in national forests or state parks — even on the Fourth of July.

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