Illegal Campfire #2 on Plaskett

I started to post a comment to yesterday’s post, but thought that in fact this should probably be a new post.

The current maximum fine for an illegal campfire is $5,000.00. Whether it is imposed, or how much is imposed, is quite another thing. From the order banning campfires in LPNF on June 26, 2010 until the rains: “A violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both. 16 USC 551 and 18 USC 3559, 3571, and 3581.” In other words, it is a federal misdemeanor. A criminal act. You can read the entire order here:

Yesterday’s illegal campfire was in the exact same spot I posted at my “How not to build a campfire” which is here: it is the second fire ring, behind the grass up against the bushes.

What is distressing about these campfires is that they are below the only really populated area on Plaskett. Lots of structures. Fortunately, that portion of the road is often in the fog, and is regularly traveled by locals, and so fires there are usually caught in time to report them before they run amok.

Today, a friend found yet ANOTHER illegal campfire only a few hundred yards away from yesterday’s camp fire!! He reported it to the USFS. Now, if they actually fined these people the maximum (probably not, unless they have a history) that $10K could pay for some much needed work and/or equipment to actually prevent this sort of behavior. I would love to see tickets or arrests made for each and every illegal campfire, particularly where as here, the offenders are immediately caught. Until the current codes are enforced, regularly, the behavior will not stop.

Come on USFS. You can make some money here. Stop treating these people as lost, clueless souls, and treat them as the danger they really are.

10 thoughts on “Illegal Campfire #2 on Plaskett

  1. If they were all getting tickets, the word would spread, and less people would indulge in the behavior….THAT’S education too! 😉

  2. I agree Kate. Starting an illegal campfire in that forest is the equivalent of leaving a loaded revolver within reach of a toddler. Eventually something very bad will happen.

  3. Kate, we have total fire ban days whenever conditions are really bad for fire. On these days fines for lighting fires are around $5000 or 12 months in jail. We aren’t even allowed to use machinery that might spark on those days. It doesn’t seem like much, but If you light a fire and cause a bush fire you can be fined $100,000 or 14 years jail.

  4. From up here in Idaho’s version of Big Sur, Cascade, and the mountains around the Salmon River, where 2 million acres burned several years ago, comes my reaction…
    As a teacher, who has run some of those programs like Coastal Cleanup, “Ambassadors for the Arts and Environment”, and having students create littering/pollution posters for the campgrounds etc., I have two ideas, which could hit the problem from both ends. On one end, I may be able to start a contribution. This Fall, one of my classes will be Environmental Science, others will be Art. So, a feature community service project might be more posters and other media by the students that may effectively address educating the public (i.e., visitors who might start an illegal fire out of ignorance…yes there are a lot of ignorant folk out there!). The students would research what methods might be the most effective in what messages to deliver, how to say them, and how to get the word out to reach them.I will even e-mail this idea to students to give them an ahead-of-time chance to think up good ingenious ideas. One concept for them to develop would be the dynamics of how fire can spread from a spark to a contained campfire, and on to a disastrous inferno…and then the consequences…what would happen to our community, and our environment and its ecosystems. So the wheels in my brain are turning as I look out at all the combustible 150′ high Doug firs, Ponderosa pines, and aspens in our canyon. So if any of you want to add any of your own ideas for such student projects, you can post them here or send them to (title them Big Sur illegal fires, so I don’t delete them thinking they are spam.
    On the other end,I remember the prattle around the Big Sur south coast community about the aggressive USFS enforcement officer, Curtis Martin. Here is a real chance to put his energies to some really good use. The USFS and other enforcement personnel should put full attention on this issue and do a “crackdown”, pursuing those who start illegal fires, rather than the “easier” infractions about which they have been reputed to be overzealous. So maybe these words can be hopefully read by Curtis and others who may step up investigations and prosecute with some force. Yes…fine them the max, and use that revenue to deal with the problem (another political matter, which I will not detail here).
    So, that’s it…just some thinking. Thinking is something we all should do.

  5. Just because some people do not know how to properly maintain and put out a fire, should not cause the rest of us to be penalized. If a pit is properly build the danger level is extremely low. Rangers should only cite campers for a large or hard to control fire. It’s a shame there is such a fear of peoples stupidity that we can not even enjoy the outdoors without the fear of being ticketed.

  6. Ryan, I have to disagree with you here. When the LPNF issues its fire restrictions, which it does every year, it is based on many, many considerations, including fuel moisture. No matter how safely you think you can build your pit and put out your fire, it is quite easy for a campfire to “escape.” All it takes is one unexpected gust of wind. No one is preventing you from enjoying the outdoors. You can still cook on a propane stove, during most (but not all) fire restrictions.

  7. Truly Ryan: Your comment is sadly immature and irresponsible. You try to be a resident or firefighter in this Big Sur area, and go through the incredibly heart-stopping events around a fire, no matter how big or small. YOU may know about fire safety, but others with you, might not, or those who see you with a campfire. And what do they do? With no awareness, they get a small fire going, and then leave it… the heat can easily travel underground through gopher tunnels, or the fire can simply be forgotten, or partially extinguished. A small ember, just a small one, like the acorn and the oak tree, start something big.
    If LPNF says NO, then they mean NO. It’s not about your rights as a camper, it’s about our safety as residents, and the safety of the responding firefighters, and the huge cost to all of us taxpayers.

  8. Boy, Toby said it well. The open land belongs to ALL, not just those who wish to spend a few days there doing whatever they want to do. Accidents happen, even amongst the very careful.

    The airwaves are full of people ranting about loss of individual rights these days, but precious little about personal responsibility to act with the common good in mind.

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