Cleveland National Forest Changes its Fire Restriction System

Release Date: Aug 30, 2011  

San Diego, Calif. - The Cleveland National Forest has changed its system for implementing Fire Restrictions on the Forest.  The purpose of Fire Restrictions is to reduce the risk of human-caused fires during high fire danger and burning conditions.  Fire Restrictions impose limitations on forest users, and are implemented only as deemed necessary to help prevent wildfires.

A brown sign with Smokey Bear on it. Under the new system, the Forest will publicize the Daily Fire Danger Rating using the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) on the Forest website, and then elevate Fire Restrictions only when deemed necessary.  The new system has only two levels of restrictions as compared to the previous system that had five levels.  Under the new system, the first level of restriction is “General Fire Restrictions” which are in effect year-round, and the second level is “Elevated Fire Restrictions.”

General Fire Restrictions matches the previous system where stated activities are not allowed on the Forest.  See the link below for a list of General Fire Restrictions.

Under Elevated Fire Restrictions, the Forest Service will restrict the conduct of additional activities that have historically caused wildfire starts on the Forest.  See the link below for a list of Elevated Fire Restrictions.

Additionally, the Forest will close areas within the Forest that are especially prone to the ignition of wildfires.  Restricting activities and closing areas was a part of the previous system, however; under the old system the additional restrictions and area closures where hard for the public to fully understand.  By using the new, two level system, the Forest Service is better able to communicate to forest users about what is, and what is not allowed on the Forest.

“The old system of implementing Fire Restrictions was cumbersome and confusing for the public,” said Forest Supervisor, William Metz.  “As a critical part in the prevention of wildfires is for the public to fully understand the dangers, the new system is a return to a simpler process that matches the daily Fire Danger Rating System that has been in use nationally for several decades, then as needed, we will elevate restrictions as wildfire threats increase on the Forest.”

The daily Fire Danger Rating System under NFDRS, commonly referred to as the “Smokey Bear fire danger level,” is a scientific calculation that takes into effects several factors such as fuels conditions, expected weather effects on fuels, burning indices, live fuel moistures, and energy release component calculations, to establish the likelihood of a fire starting within a 24 hour period.

“When the public sees a Smokey Bear sign that states the “Fire Danger Today is Very High,” they need to know that the likelihood of a wildfire starting, and then quickly developing into a large fire is very much a strong possibility,” stated Carlton Joseph, Fire Chief for the Cleveland National Forest.  “The public needs to be extremely careful when recreating within the Forest during periods of high, very high and extreme fire danger.”

The table below shows a brief explanation of the various levels of fire danger under the Fire Danger Rating System.

Fire Danger Level Description
Low Fires will not spread beyond heat of camp fire or brush fire.
Moderate Fires will start from open flame, camp or brush fires.  Spreads slowly.
High Fires will start from a lighted match and spread rapidly in dry grass, slower with moisture.  Will continue to spread until extinguished.
Very High Fires will start readily from match or glowing embers, and spreads rapidly as it increases in size.  May crown young conifers.
Extreme Fires start readily from sparks or cigarette butts, spread and crown rapidly.  Spot fires common.  All burn fiercely and may blow up unless controleed promptly.

“Please note that daily Fire Danger Ratings for the forest change quickly as we progress through the summer and into the fall burning periods with Santa Ana winds,“ added Joseph.  “It is not uncommon for the Fire Danger Rating on the Forest to change on a day to day basis, so it’s always best for the public to “Know Before You Go.”The daily Fire Danger Rating System will be posted and updated on the Cleveland National Forest web site home page in the upper right hand corner at  Immediately below the Smokey Bear symbol is a link to which Fire Use Restrictions level is currently in effect.

Contact your closest Forest Service office to find out the current information concerning the fire danger across the Forest and which level of fire restrictions are in effect before you head into the Forest.  



“Know before you go!” Forest contacts for current information

  • District offices are open Monday through Friday, from 8:00AM to 4:30PM.
  • For the Cleveland National Forest Supervisor’s Office, call (858) 673-6180. 
  • For Alpine, Descanso, and Laguna Mountain areas contact the Descanso Ranger District at (619) 445-6235.
  • For Palomar Mountain, Henshaw, Ramona, Temecula Valley and Oak Grove areas contact the Palomar Ranger District at (760) 788-0250.
  • For the Ortega Hwy area, San Mateo, Orange County and Corona areas contact the Trabuco Ranger District at (951) 736-1811.