Improperly handled campfires a big risk with hot, dry weather ahead

Near record temperatures are expected this week in Denver and a long stretch of dry, warm weather means fire danger will be high.

Near-record temperatures are expected this week in Denver and a long stretch of dry, warm weather means fire danger will be high.

Last year, the Cold Springs Fire in Nederland destroyed more than 500 acres of pristine forest land. Two out-of-state campers were charged after admitting that they didn't put a fire out properly.

RELATED: 2 campers arrested for arson in Cold Springs Fire

Improperly handled campfires are a common problem in Colorado with potentially dangerous consequences, rangers said.

Chatfield State Park had several incidents involving campfires during Father's Day weekend, said officials with Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

The park is at full capacity right now which means thousands of campers are responsible for their own fires, which concerns Ranger Mike Haskins.

"The way people treat their campfires is somewhat careless almost," Ranger Haskins said.

If a fire ban is in effect, Ranger Haskins patrols fire pits and campsites in Chatfield State Park to make sure people are following the rules. However, campers often don't.

"They leave the campground, we stroll through and there's still almost a full fire going in their firepit in their campground, totally unattended," he said.

At Chatfield State Park, campers are only allowed to start a fire in a designated pit. People often assume the pit will take care of a fire on its own which can lead to problems, according to Haskins.

Monday, he discovered a potentially dangerous situation on a grill at Chatfield State Park where strong winds had knocked coal into dry brush nearby.

"That's what people don't understand," Haskins said. "Just takes one fire to be unattended or to not be put out all the way and we have a massive wildfire."

Ranger Haskins also deals with people who are illegally starting campfires by the water.

"The people fishing late at night, they build a fire on the beach," he said.

Rangers can issue citations but say it can be tough to track down who started the fire. Here's more information on what officials with Colorado Parks & Wildlife allow during camping: http://bit.ly/2sMvy3t.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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