SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — Many family and friend groups set their sights on the outdoors this weekend, and that comes with some risks.
As of Friday night, all of the family campgrounds in the San Bernardino National Forest were at full capacity.
For some people, it’s a new adventure and for others, camping during Labor Day weekend is a decades-long tradition.
Every year for the 30 years, the Sele family goes camping during Labor Day weekend, and this year — while unprecedented — will be no different.
“We’re gonna be here relaxing enjoying the family and the fresh air and blue skies,” said camper Michelle Sele, whose family has been camping for 30 years.
The groups coming out to camp this year will face unique challenges amid pandemic restrictions and expected record-high temperatures but they didn’t come without water to stay cool and hydrated.
The dry heat is rolling in with extreme fire danger for the mountains and foothill communities.
“We want to get (fires) out, we want to keep them small. But it will be very hard in these temperatures,” said Zach Behrens, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino National Forest.
Behrens said it’s not just record-breaking heat that increases the risk of wildfires this weekend, but a record number of visitors coming out for outdoor adventures as well and starting illegal campfires.
“A year ago about this time there was about 189 campfire, this year there have been 700 that we’ve documented so far,” he said.
As a reminder to anyone camping out, campfires are only permitted in designated fire pits at the campgrounds. Makeshift fire rings are illegal and can cause catastrophic damage.
“It can be still smoldering for days and then some winds come and pick it up and then we’re off to the races on a wildfire,” Behrens explained.
In recent months, incidents of illegal campfires have increased by 270%, officials said.
U.S. Forest Service officials are working 24-hour shifts throughout Labor Day weekend in preparation for some of the issues they could face. They have also positioned hotshot crews and strike team engines.