95% of Wildfires in California Are Human Caused: Illegal Campfires to Blame

Alex Camerino | FireFire
Campfires can grow out of control
Campfires can quickly turn into wildfires when improperly tended to. Photo: Jessica CY

The Lake Tahoe Basin has seen an increase in illegal campfires this summer. These campfires are part of the reason 95% of wildfires in California are human-caused. Fires are only permitted in a designated metal fire ring in an established campsite with an on-duty host. While the rules are strict, they are in place to protect everyone during the hot and dry summer.

Fire restrictions began on May 29, however, Tahoe National Forest employees have responded to 19 escaped fires already. This is the second-highest number of calls the National Forest has had to respond to ever. In addition, employees have come across 75 illegal campfires outside designated areas. Fires are illegal in the Tahoe Basin even if there is a rock ring as the fire can easily jump the ring and become a runaway forest fire. It cannot be stressed enough that if you are going camping anywhere you know what the current fire restrictions are. In the Tahoe National Forest, the fine is up to $5,000 or six months in jail.

Drown your campfire
Smokey Bear always wants to remind everyone that “only YOU can prevent wildfires!” Photo: Smokey

Even if a fire is in a designated fire ring, campers need to make sure the fire is all the way out before leaving it unattended. A large quantity of water should be dumped on a fire to properly put it out. The coals should then be stirred to make sure there are no embers still smoldering. Even one smoldering ember is enough to reignite a campfire if it is dry and there is a strong wind. The Lake Tahoe basin has had several red flag warnings recently which makes it crucial that people obey the law. The last thing anyone wants is to have a devastating fire that rips through any Tahoe community.

Red Flag
Red flag warning issued last week for the Taho Basin and surrounding area. Photo: CalFire

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