Nevada City, Calif. — Tahoe National Forest fire management officers and recreation managers have noticed two distinct trends so far this summer: an increase in Forest visitors dispersed camping and a sharp increase in both escaped and illegal, unattended campfires.
The Tahoe National Forest entered campfire restrictions on May 29, 2020. Since that date, wildland firefighters have responded to nineteen escaped campfires. An escaped campfire, by definition, is an incident in which an unattended campfire is already burning adjacent areas and the immediate suppressive action taken by Tahoe National Forest wildland firefighters have prevented further spread. By comparison, the second highest number of escaped campfires over the same date range occurred in 2018 when the Tahoe National Forest responded to only nine escaped campfires.
“These numbers only account for statistical escaped campfires,” said Eli Ilano, Tahoe National Forest Supervisor. “Firefighters, recreation managers, and other Tahoe National Forest employees have also taken action on approximately seventy-five unattended, illegal campfires outside of designated recreation sites. These are campfires that have been left burning with the possibility of immediate escape into the forest. Drastic numbers such as these greatly increase the potential for large, destructive wildfires.”
“In California, about 95% of wildfires are human caused and many are the result of escaped campfires. We need our visitors, now more than ever, to practice responsible recreation. This starts by following campfire restrictions,” said Ilano.
Current fire restrictions prohibit campfires outside of fire rings within specific developed recreation sites across the Tahoe National Forest. Fire restriction patrols will be conducted throughout the remainder of the summer and into the fall; punishment could mean up to $5,000 in fines or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. A list of locations where campfires are allowed within established fire rings can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tahoe/home/?cid=FSEPRD750152.