SANTA CRUZ, Calf. (KRON) — Cal Fire announced it has decided to suspend burn permits in Santa Cruz County as the state is experiencing an early start to fire season due to ongoing drought and historically low rainfall.

Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt have created longer and more intense dry seasons that make forests more susceptible to catching on fire. Increased fire danger posed by dead grass and hotter, drier conditions in the region prompted Cal Fire to suspend all burn permits for outdoor residential burning within the State Responsibility Area of Santa Cruz County.

The suspension, effective immediately, bans all residential outdoor burning of landscape debris such as branches and leaves. “California wildfires continue to threaten our communities,” said Chief Joe Tyler, Cal Fire Director. “With the conditions set for an early start of the 2022 fire season, it is imperative that we collectively take preventative steps now to prepare, and we ask all Californians to do their part in wildfire preparedness.”

While outdoor burning of landscape debris by homeowners is no longer allowed, Cal Fire is asking residents to take that extra time to prepare their homes for wildfire by creating defensible space and hardening their homes ahead of wildfires.

The suspension of burn permits for residential landscape debris does not apply to campfires
within organized campgrounds or on private property. Cal Fire said campfires may be allowed if the
campfire is maintained in “such a manner as to prevent its spread to the wildland”.

A valid campfire permit is required and can be obtained online.

“We want to allow residents to burn responsibly with a valid burn permit as long as possible into the spring months to help reduce their overall fire risk,” Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit Chief Nate Armstrong said. “With the incoming heat and no foreseeable rainfall we need to now stop residential burns for the fire season, but urge residents to continue their fire season preparation by other means.”

CAL FIRE said it may issue restricted burning permits if there is an essential reason. Agriculture, land management, fire training, and other industrial-type burning may proceed if a CAL FIRE official inspects the burn site and issues a special permit.

Here are some tips to help prepare homes and property: 

  • Clear all dead and or dying vegetation 100 feet from around all structures. 
  • Landscape with fire-resistant plants and non-flammable ground cover. 
  • Find alternative ways to dispose of landscape debris like chipping or hauling it to a biomass energy or green waste facility.