On the 6th of July, very strict fire restrictions went into effect. Up until that time, fires were allowed in fire rings in campgrounds; folks doing dispersed/primitive camping could not have fires. On July 6th, fires were banned even in campgrounds. Any smoking became restricted to inside cars with doors and windows closed. Use of camp stoves with an on/off switch was not banned, but a fire permit is needed to legally use them.
Signs were posted on the sides of roads throughout the forest, as well as on the information board in campgrounds, including mine.
For almost two weeks, no one tried to have a campfire in my campground. Whenever I checked people in, I immediately told them the most important thing they needed to know was NO CAMPFIRES. At my supervisor’s request, I started writing “no fire, wood or charcoal” on camping permits, near where the camper signs his/her name. On the copy of the permit that hangs on the pole at the front of the campsite, I was instructed to write “NF” (No Fire) so that if a ranger or company employee comes through my campground and sees a camper with a fire, the permit shows that I’ve informed the camper of the fire restrictions.
Of course, I don’t sit in my campground all day long waiting to tell campers about fire restrictions and watching for unsanctioned fires. I work at the parking lot three, four, sometimes five hours a day. That’s a lot of time for people to be in the campground with no one to make sure they don’t build a fire.
Before the restrictions, I would climb into my van between 7pm and dark and hang my curtain and take off my uniform. If campers came in after that, I’d write their permit and get them to sign it the next morning. Now, if I hear people come in early enough to possibly build a campfire, I get out of the van and talk to them about the fire ban and get them to sign their permit so they can’t say they didn’t know they couldn’t have a campfire.
Almost two weeks after the ban on campfires, I left the parking lot precisely at 3pm. As I pulled into my campground, I saw I had new campers on sites #1, #2, and #3. After parking the van, I grabbed permits and car passes and walked over to that side of the campground. The tent on site #1 was zipped, and although there was a car parked on the site, I didn’t see any people moving about, so I went to site #2.
As I walked up, I saw the folks on site #2 were preparing food to cook. After getting their basic information, I informed them of the no campfire rule. As I looked over to their fire ring, I saw large shish kabobs sitting on the attached grill. I also noticed several pieces of purchased firewood near the fire pit.
What I didn’t notice until I took a couple of steps up higher into the campsite so I could see the license plate on their vehicle was the fire already burning in the ring. I’d just told them absolutely no campfires, but they somehow thought it would be ok to have a campfire until their meaty kabobs were cooked.
I told them I was sorry but we were going to have to put the fire out. They wanted me to wait until their dinner was cooked, but I said no. No way was I going to allow campers to have a fire for five minutes while the whole forest is under a strict fire ban. I apologized again and said I’d get a bucket of water.
When I got back with the bucket of water, I apologized so many times while I extinguished the fire that the woman told me to quit being sorry because I was only doing my job. The man never raised his voice at me or got rude, but I could tell he was angry. He said he’d made the reservation two months ago, and there had been no information about fire restrictions. I told him the fire ban had only gone into effect on July 6th, and it was the Forest Service that called for the ban, not the company I work for. I also told them there was a sign announcing the restrictions at the front of the campground. (Of course, they said they hadn’t seen the sign.)
The man thought he should have been sent an email when the ban went into effect. He was upset that he’d bought firewood he couldn’t use and that his barbecue plans had been thwarted. I was sympathetic and told him I would get him a comment card if he wanted one. He said he did want one, so I got that for him as well as the phone number to the local office and a fire permit to make the use of their camp stove legal.
Upon thinking on the situation further, I think the reservation company would have to contact campers to alert them of such changes as a fire ban, as it is the reservation company who has contact info for people who have reserved campsites. In any case, if the unhappy man pursues his complaint, someone higher than I in the chain of command can explain all that to him.
By the time I got back to site #2 with the second bucket of water needed to extinguish the fire completely, it had started raining. There was never a torrential downpour, but over the next several hours there were varying degrees of precipitation from drizzle to steady rain. Maybe Mother Nature would have accomplished the dousing of the campfire, but I wasn’t about to take any chances.
To read more stories of campers and fire restrictions, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/15/what-do-people-do/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/13/but-were-cold/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/18/where-theres-smoke/.