By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

A dry winter season will mean a greater fire danger this summer and fall, according to national forest representatives.

Its a high likelihood there will be fire restrictions put on this summer, said Brian Morris, District Ranger for the Smith River National Recreation Area. We could even go to full fire closure.

Rainfall totals are 46 percent of average for this time of year, said Syndy Heidt, the acting fire management officer for the district. Normal rainfall in the Gasquet area is 74 inches. Totals are currently under 40 inches.

As a comparison, Heidt noted 1977 had a very active fire season; the Hog fire that year burned 54,000 acres. Rainfall this year is below 1977 levels so far.

People need to consider the long dry periods weve had this spring when doing clearing and other activities around residential properties, said Heidt.

Morris agreed, saying that fuel reduction around homes is an important factor for fire-fighting crews.

When we get into a fire situation, we have to make some very tough decisions, he said.

Whether we try and defend a home or not from an approaching fire is a decision based on if we are putting our people at unacceptable risk, and can we be effective. If its not safe we have to pull our people out of there.

Heidt has several suggestions for creating a defensible space around homes: clear excess brush, stack firewood at least 50 feet from structures, clean leaves and needles from roofs and gutters, and trim overhanging limbs and branches away from roofs.

In the forest, Morris said logging contracts may be used to clear areas where the growth is too dense.

A lot of people get upset when they hear this because they think were promoting logging, he said. Thats not our objective. Its a tool to achieve fuel reduction.

Unless the area receives more rain this spring, Morris suggested campers should think ahead.

If you have a favorite spot where you like to camp, you might want to think about going early - or you may have to cold-camp.

Two meetings are coming up that will be dealing with fire prevention. The first is at 7 to 9 p.m. on March 22 at the American Legion Hall in Gasquet. This meeting will provide public input on the Six Rivers Fire Management Plan.

A nonprofit organization called Del Norte Fire Safe Council will have its first meeting at 6 p.m. on April 25 at the Crescent City Fire Department.