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Tahoe National Forest Crews Battling Record Number Of Escaped Campfires

TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST (CBS13) — The Tahoe National Forest is seeing a record-breaking number of campfires burning out of control, maxing out resources.

CBS13 tagged along with Tahoe National Forest Public Affairs Officer Joe Flannery Thursday to learn more about the problem. Our journey started on the water in a Nevada County Sheriff's boat. Flannery hiked into the forest to show us the widespread damage of an escaped campfire, one of many just this season.

"They were immediately dropping buckets, we had the American River Hot Shot crew, two engine crews. They hiked around the lake," Flannery said.

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All those resources are critical because damaging this area has far-reaching impact considering it sits right alongside one of the most complex hydro-electric projects in the country.

"So whether you live on the edge of the Tahoe National Forest or you're turning your light switch down in the Sacramento area, or you get your drinking water, this infrastructure and both of those communities are at risk with high-intensity fires," said Flannery.

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Escaped campfires at the Tahoe National Forest are double what they were this time in 2018 when they had hit a record. Crews have also dealt with 75 unattended illegal campfires.

"It sucks, to be honest with you. You stay outside, you want to keep warm but at the same time, at what risk?" said Aaron Pillado.

Pillado traveled to the area for a day trip from Sacramento. It's no surprise to Pillado that a lot of those visiting Tahoe National Forest and camping right now are first-timers.

"I mean, you're being isolated for months at a time, everyone wants to be outside, even at a local park," said Pillado.

"We're asking everybody to please, please follow campfire restrictions," said Flannery.

There are 98 developed sites where you can have campfires in the Tahoe National Forest. If you are caught burning outside those areas, you can be fined up to $5,000.

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