EL DORADO NATIONAL FOREST - With wildfire season arriving early this year, campers throughout Northern California, even at higher elevations in the Sierra, are being urged to use extra caution this year.
At China Flat Campground, high above Kyburz off Highway 50, Penny Norris of Rancho Cordova is taking those concerns seriously. She brought plastic containers, which used to hold kitty litter, and gave them out to other campers to fill with water so they can place it beside their fires.
"Near a fire pit in case of a spark and it might get out of hand. You'll have water there to pour on it," Norris explained.
Camp host Adam Whitehouse has rakes and water hoses handy and is warning everyone to be careful. Whitehouse pointed to exposed trees and rocks along the South Fork of the American River that would normally be covered by higher water.
A meadow beside his own camper is nearly dry.
"Normally, it's up a foot to two or three feet and it's barely trickling," Whitehouse said. "This is the driest we've ever seen the meadow."
At a Forest Service ranger station in Camino, a fire crew stands ready, with a bulldozer loaded on it's trailer.
"We're about a month and a half ahead of schedule for fuel so our fuels are acting like it's late June," U.S. Forest Service Fire Management Officer Jason Withrow said.
Withrow said recent rain and snow amounted to little more than half an inch of precipitation over much of the high country. He urged people to use great care in discharging firearms, which are often responsible for setting fires. Improperly-fitted off road vehicles can be even more dangerous.
"Recreational vehicle off road use and lack of spark arrestors or things of that nature causes a lot of starts for us," Withrow said.
Permits are required for any fire at any time of year, Withrow said.