The number of abandoned campfires has increased across the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest this summer. Forest Service officials say they’re the cause of several small and large wildfires.
The forest service says they’ve seen 209 abandoned campfires and 53 escaped campfires in Northern Utah this season. Dana Howlett is a public information officer for the US Forest Service. She says many of these abandoned fires are from people who don’t put their campfires out properly before they leave a campsite.
“Another thing that’s been happening is that people are taking large logs, and they’re putting an end of the log into the fire ring and the other end is still sticking out beyond the fire ring" she explains. "With that end sticking out of the fire ring it can easily ignite whatever is around it.”
In Arizona the Tusayan Ranger District of Kaibab National Forest has reached their goal of zero human-caused wildfires for the past two years in a row. Bob Blasi is a fire prevention specialist for Kaibab National Forest. He just won the 2016 national Smokey Bear Award for preventing wildfires.
Blasi says he finds about 200 to 300 abandoned campfires a year. But he’s able to prevent wildfires by checking each of the fire pits in his area.
“We have to hit those rings kind of like a paper route" he says. "Where you just have to get out early first thing in the morning, and go out and get to those rings, and oftentimes you can find the people still there and you can educate them and tell them what they need to do.”
Blasi says people are only safe to leave their campsites when their fires are out and cool to the touch.