Report Shows Illegal Campfires Continue Despite Burn Bans

More than 1 in 3 campers report seeing illegal fires as the nation faces forest fire emergency.

Image Caption: Night long exposure photograph of the Santa Clarita wildfire in CA. The Santa Clarita Valley mountains has drawn firefighters and emergency crews in the hills toward Acton. So far, the fire has burned 38,346 acres.

A recent survey conducted by The Dyrt found 36 percent of campers reported seeing active fires in areas with burn bans this summer. With forest fires this year burning more than 4.5 million acres, the risk of human-caused forest fires is high.

The National Interagency Fire Center calculated that over 53,000 fires were started by humans in 2020.

“We do see a lot of people that are glad to have the restrictions and are advocating for enforcement,” says Jennifer Chapman, public affairs officer at Eldorado National Forest in California. “But we do also see some people, whether it’s knowingly or not, that are making illegal campfires.”

Signs and flashing message boards are used along most highways to inform the public of the risk, but plans are in motion to increase patrols to further assist through the high-risk, early fall fire season.

According to Chapman, all campers should know the rules and fire restrictions of the site where they are going. Chapman advised anyone who sees a fire in an area with a burn ban to report it to the nearest ranger station.

The US is currently at National Preparedness Level 5, which means there no additional reserve firefighters exist. Resources to fight new fires across the country are low because of the vast number of active large fires already burning.

“One less spark, one less wildfire,” Chapman says. “Look how devastating these fires are right now. We need to focus on the true meaning of prevention. It only takes one fire taking off to really create a potentially very damaging event. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to be the cause of that.”

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