Photo Credit:

If you’ve been anywhere around Boulder this weekend, you’ve seen the plume of smoke caused by the Cold Springs Fire above Nederland. This fire, caused by the mindless neglect of a campfire, has claimed 8 homes, burnt over 600 acres, and displaced almost 2,000 people so far. These numbers seem staggering, but it could have been much worse. In 2010, the Four Mile Canyon Fire destroyed upwards of 150 homes just a few miles outside of Boulder. At the time, it was the most destructive fire in Colorado history. This status would soon be overtaken by the High Park fire, Waldo Canyon Fire, and the Black Forest Fire. All it takes is a stray spark or overlooked ember to permanently alter 100s of lives.

Fire Bans

In response to hot and dry conditions, much of Colorado has enacted some form of fire ban. Boulder County has enacted a ban that prohibits all open burning, as well as the sale and use of fireworks. A violation of this ban can result in a fine of up to $1,000. If your plans for the coming weeks include any camping or backpacking, make sure to check the status of fire bans in that area.

Fire Responsibility

Enjoying a campfire is one of the iconic parts of any camping trip. While s’mores might be your prime objective, it is vital that you remember that building a fire is first and foremost a responsibility. Failure to safely build, maintain, and extinguish a fire can have catastrophic results including a felony and jail time.

  • Obey any fire bans or restrictions that may be in place.
  • Even if there are no bans in effect, there are certain conditions under which one should not build a fire. High winds, as well as other environmental factors such as high heat or low humidity, can make fires even more difficult to responsibly maintain. If you feel like you could possibly lose control of the situation, it might be a good evening to enjoy your marshmallows raw – consider it a s’more deconstructed.
  • Build your fire in a fire pit. If fires are allowed and a pit is not provided, use a fire pan or dig a pit at least 15 feet from anything that may catch on fire. Remember to look up for low hanging branches and shrubbery.
  • Never leave your fire unattended. Fire spreads unimaginably quickly. If you’re not there to watch it, you won’t be able to stop it.
  • If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. Extinguishing a fire doesn’t mean just waiting for the flames to burn out. Pour water over the coals until they are cold. If there is no visible heat, but you can still hear hissing, the fire is not out.

Enjoy your camping trip. Roast some hotdogs. Tell some ghost stories. Above all else, remember the impact you can have on your environment and those around you. Be responsible.

Pro-tip: Smokey Bear has gone digital. For more fire safety tips and a healthy dose of nostalgia follow him on social media.