We recently conducted a survey of The Dyrt camping community and found that 36 percent of campers reported seeing active fires in areas with burn bans this summer. Already this year, more than 4.5 million acres have burned in 41,197 fires. 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.”
Chapman says there are numerous signs and flashing message boards along most highways, but there is still a plan to increase patrols and messaging to help get 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. Anyone who sees a fire in an area with a burn ban should report it to the nearest ranger station.
“Let’s not sugarcoat this,” says Kevin Long, The Dyrt’s co-founder. “It’s every camper’s responsibility to protect the natural environment we are all lucky enough to be able to enjoy. When burn bans are in place, there is no excuse for having a campfire. If having one is that important to you, please camp where they’re legal.”
Because of the vast number of active large fires, resources to fight back the flames are spread thin. The US is currently at National Preparedness Level 5, which means there are no more firefighters to call on. “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.”
Read more about this subject in Gary Garth’s article on Fall Camping in USA Today.