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Restrictions have little effect on abandoned campfires in Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe National Forest Firefighters Treylin Macdonald and Sam Stein unload the last of the hose and backpack tanks used to help move water on the Phoenix Fire, which was caused by an abandoned campfire.
Submitted photo |

Forest Service officials are warning campers against abandoning campfires, adding that anyone who causes a fire will be required to pay the firefighting costs.

“If you are not in a designated campground, you may not have a campfire,” said Fire Prevention Technician Liz Kurpies. “You need to have a permit in your possession for the gas stoves you are using for cooking and the gas lanterns you are using for lighting. If you get your free permit at the beginning of the year, it’s good all year long and you need to keep it with you.”

Kurpies, who works on the Yuba River Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest, said that while we are actively in hunting season, fire restrictions are still in effect. Abandoned campfires are still an issue in remote areas of the forest, however.



According to Kurpies, this year alone on the Yuba River Ranger District, she has reported 15 abandoned campfires. Four of those fires escaped and caused wildfires that required suppression activities.

“Finding abandoned campfires is almost like playing hide and seek,” Kurpies said. “First, I smell smoke and then I have to try to find it.”




According to Kurpies, the fines for an illegal campfire are not cheap. The tickets start at $380. Additional infractions can be added on to the ticket, which increases the cost.

“If your campfire escapes and you are found to be at fault, you will receive a bill for the suppression costs,” warned Kurpies.

The Phoenix Fire, caused by an abandoned campfire, burned 38 acres and cost $6,000 an acre. If the responsible party cannot be identified, then the taxpayers bear the brunt of the expense.

Kurpies pointed out that fire restriction signs are posted at all trailheads, campgrounds, and on the TNF website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/tahoe.

“It is important that all fires be extinguished with water and a shovel, even those in fire rings, because they can still cause a fire,” she said.


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