Illegal campsites, other causes spark concerns about wildfires amid dry conditions

Posted at 10:51 AM, Apr 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-13 13:47:12-04

BOULDER, Colo. -- Warm, dry weather in the next week has fire crews concerned amid an increase in illegal camping and other causes.

Hundreds of homes were evacuated in March because of a wildfire caused from an illegal campsite. Fire management officers raised the fire danger from low to medium on Wednesday.  

"We've seen a dramatic increase in human-caused fires," said Jay Stalnacker.  

Stalnaker is a fire emergency management officer for Boulder County. He said the most common causes of human-sparked fires are unattended campfires, negligently discarded cigarettes, and target shooting.

"During my 20-year career, it's now become a job - daily - to look at these conditions and fuels, and the weather and activities," said Stalnacker. 

According to the National Park Service, as many as 90 percent of wildfires in the country are human-caused. They offer the following tips to properly extinguish campfires.

  • Make sure the area around your campfire is clear of brush and debris
  • Always have water and a shovel on hand
  • Douse the fire in water, cover it with dirt, then "stir and drown"
  • Keep stirring until the fire is out and cold to the touch

Stalnaker said it never used to be this bad, but now it's something they must adjust to. 

"There's illegal camp sites all up in there, and they've been shown," said nearby resident, Sue.

She said she was evacuated during the recent fire in March. 

"We're hoping that the rangers will, and the sheriff will, not just drive by and glance, but get out of their cars and walk in," Sue said. 

Their concerns are only heightened because of the unseasonably dry conditions the state is experiencing. Denver is not expecting any sort of precipitation until Thursday, April 20, and even then, the weather forecast shows only a 20 percent chance of rain through the following week.

The City of Boulder is holding an event where you can learn more about how to keep your family and home safe if a wildfire happens. It's happening on May 6 at 10 a.m. at the Ranger Cottage at Chautauqua Park. 

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