A roaring fire

Wildfire Prevention & Campfire Safety

Posted: 06/29/23

Only you can prevent forest fires! Smokey the Bear

Wildfires are a real threat to the Big Bear community and San Bernardino National Forest. Unfortunately, most fires are the result of irresponsible practices and failure to follow fire prevention laws. Please read further for information on illegal fire activity and tips to be fire safe.

Fire Safety in Big Bear


From Big Bear Lake Fire Department: Personal fireworks are illegal throughout Big Bear Valley, including “safe and sane” fireworks. In addition, all fireworks that explode, shoot into the air or move along the ground are termed dangerous and are illegal anywhere in California. If someone is seen using personal fireworks, call (909) 866-7566 or text (909) 731-4887 immediately.

Report illegal fireworks.

From San Bernardino County Fire Protection District: Possession of any type of fireworks is against the law in any unincorporated area of San Bernardino County. In the event a fire occurs due to the unsafe use of fireworks, the responsible persons are likely to face criminal charges and be held liable for damages.

Safety Laws

The following acts are prohibited on the San Bernardino National Forest. See here for full laws.

  • Carelessly or negligently throwing or placing any ignited substance (like cigarettes) or other substance that may cause a fire.
  • Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site.
  • Operating an internal combustion engine anywhere other than on paved, gravel, or dirt National Forest System roads.
  • Using an explosive or possessing, discharging or using any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device.

Campfire Safety

Camping offers many joys and nothing completes the experience like a crackling campfire. However, the dangers of mishandled and illegal fires are real and can have devastating effects on our mountain community and National Forest.

Where Campfires Are Permitted

The San Bernardino National Forest has restrictions in place regarding campfires. Wood and charcoal campfires are allowed only in agency-provided fire rings at:

  • Yellow Post Sites
  • Developed Campgrounds - Campfire permit required.
  • Picnic Areas - In provided BBQ grills
  • You must obtain a California Campfire Permit

Campfires are not allowed anywhere else at any time of the year.

It is illegal to build a fire while camping remotely (outside of a designated camping area). Additional restrictions on campfires can be implemented as fire danger increases, always check with the local Ranger Station. Read Current Fire Restrictions.

A citation for violating fire restrictions prompts a mandatory court appearance. It is a federal offense punishable as a misdemeanor, a fine, and/or imprisonment.

Extinguishing Campfires

Extinguishing your campfire properly and completely is crucial to avoiding accidental wildfires. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is leave a fire pit without ensuring that flames aren't still smoldering under the surface. Wildfires can and have smoldered underground and reignited dead leaf matter or even tree roots. The California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection recommend the “Drown, Stir and Feel” method:

  • Drown - Drown the fire with water.
  • Stir - Stir around the fire area with your shovel to wet any remaining embers and ash. Be sure to turn wood and coals over and wet all sides. Move some dirt onto the fire site and mix thoroughly to fully smother it.
  • Feel - Feel the area with the back of your hand to ensure nothing is still smoldering.

Buy It Where You Burn It

If you plan to build a campfire, please 'Buy It Where You Burn It!' Firewood from outside the area can harbor insects and diseases that are non-native to our National Forest. Bringing invasive species into new locations can kill large numbers of trees and shrubs. For this reason, it is important that you 'Buy It Where You Burn It!'

Collectively, we can keep the San Bernardino National Forest (and all forests) safe from accidental fires and damage from invasive species. Be an ally with us and know before you go, happy camping!

"We know everyone enjoys having campfires while recreating outdoors...however, the public needs to be mindful of the conditions and where they are wanting to have campfires, in order to be safe." San Bernardino National Forest Fire Chief Jaime Gamboa