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Proposed Campground Expansion At Auburn State Recreation Area Draws Concern Over Wildfire Risk

AUBURN (CBS13) — Controversy is brewing at the Auburn State Recreation Area as the state will consider adding more than one hundred new campgrounds to the area.

People who live nearby say that will increase the threat of wildfires and put lives at risk.

The proposed expansion of the campgrounds—from 36 to more than 250—has people sounding the alarm.

"The impact of more people is more risk of wildfire," said John Mikelini, president of the board of directors of the Foresthill Fire Protection District.

The district is opposed to the added campgrounds and says it will put people who live in the community at risk, not only from increased risk of wildfires but by overcrowding evacuation routes.

"There's 7,000 people that live in the Foresthill area along the Foresthill divide and really have only one true means of accessing and leaving the community," Mikelini said. "The Foresthill Bridge, where the Bridge Fire occurred this year, was blocked as a result of the fire."

Even without the added campgrounds, more visitors to the popular area have caused problems during the pandemic, with traffic backups and illegal parking.

"You're restricting the lane people can use," said Stephanie Holloway, senior engineer with Placer County Public Works.

The Bridge Fire was just one of seven wildfires to have hit the Auburn State Recreation Area in the past 12 years.

Now the new concern is giving more people more access could create more wildfire danger.

"More people equals more risk," Mikelini said. "Fires are caused primarily by humans, and that is our concern."

The State Park and Recreation Commission votes on the campground expansion Thursday. If passed, there is no timeline for how soon the campgrounds could be added.

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