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Adam Jensen: Keep fire top of mind while enjoying Lake Tahoe

Well, if there was any doubt about whether we’re in the heart of fire season before, there’s no doubt about it now.

I got a sinking feeling when I crested Spooner Summit on Monday and realized just how big the Washington fire outside of Markleeville had become. The 16,544-acre fire was still burning mostly uncontained Wednesday morning, with the primary goal for firefighters being to prevent the spread of the fire toward Markleeville. Thousands of acres of prime Sierra Nevada forest boasting abundant wildlife and recreational opportunities have already been ravaged by the fire.

While the Washington fire is believed to have been caused by the remnants of a lightning strike reignited by recent winds, illegal and unattended campfires are the cause of more than 90 percent of the wildfires in the Lake Tahoe Basin, according to the U.S. Forest Service. So, it’s up to us outdoor enthusiasts to help keep wildfires from destroying any more of the Range of Light than they would otherwise.

Campfires and charcoal barbecues are not allowed on beaches or in the forest outside of developed campsites at Lake Tahoe. Campfires are never allowed in the Desolation Wilderness.

Before you light a campfire, here are a few things to consider, from a recent announcement from the Forest Service: Are there Fire Restrictions in effect? Is it too windy with “Red Flag Warning” conditions? Is this an approved location for campfires? Is a propane/gas stove a possible campfire alternative? Is there enough water to put out the campfire? Is the area clear of flammable materials (tents, overhanging branches, dry grass/leaves)? Will there be a responsible adult awake and attending the fire at all times?

The Forest Service also offers these tips if you’re able to cross those hurdles for having a campfire: Putting out a campfire out takes a lot of water and stirring. Soak the fire with water making sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Use a shovel, stir water and dirt into your campfire to make sure everything is wet. Feel for heat with the back of your hand near the surface; make sure everything is cold to the touch. If it is too hot to touch, then it is too hot leave.

While it’s not always tons of fun being fire safe, seeing thousands of acres of beautiful terrain going up in smoke is heartbreaking. Thank a firefighter and do your part to make sure fire doesn’t destroy any more of our outdoor playgrounds.

Adam Jensen is the editor of Lake Tahoe Action. He can be reached at ajensen@tahoedailytribune.com.


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