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Elevated fire restrictions were imposed Sunday for the Santa Ana Mountains and Ortega Highway sections of Orange County in the Cleveland National Forest, as the dry ''forest fire season'' looms closer.
The heightened restrictions are because of "dryer fuel conditions, higher temperatures and the likelihood of small fires becoming large fires,'' Cleveland National Forest Public Affairs Officer Brian Harris said.
"99.9 percent of our fires are human caused," Harris said. "The public needs to be extra careful when they're out in the woods."
Under elevated fire restrictions, the Forest Service restricts activities that have started fires in the past.
The additional rules require visitors to bring spark arrestors for all off-road vehicles and chainsaws. Camp fires are not allowed except in designated campground areas.
Gas, liquid and petroleum stove operations are allowed in all camping and picnic areas except for areas of Descanso and Palomar Ranger District and the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness Area on the Trabuco Ranger District. Shooting a firearm is only allowed during hunting season or for target practice in the pre- designated areas of the forest.
Forest visitors who smoke are only allowed to do so within an enclosed vehicle that is located on developed recreation sites, Harris said.
"When you see a Smokey Bear sign that reads, 'Fire danger today is very high,' you need to know that the likelihood of a wildfire starting, and then quickly developing into a large fire is a strong possibility,'' Cleveland National Forest Fire Chief Carlton Joseph said. "
Visitors seeking information about localized fire restrictions in the the Ortega Highway area, San Mateo, Orange County and Corona areas can check with the Trabuco Ranger District at (951) 736-1811.