SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — A brush fire was sparked by an illegal campfire in the San Bernardino Mountains Thursday, and forest officials say that it’s the second time such a fire happened this week.

The Fork Fire, which was reported by a volunteer fire lookout at Keller Peak at about 3:45 p.m. Thursday burned off East Flats Road in the Barton Flats area south of Big Bear. Firefighters were able to keep it to a quarter acre, and it has been 100% contained.

Authorities say the mountains have seen an increase in visitors, and correspondingly, an increase in bad practices like setting up fires outside designated fire rings at developed campgrounds. According to forest spokesman Zach Behrens, there have been a 150% increase in illegal fires, from 33 in 2019 to 87 in 2020.

Campfires built directly on the ground are always illegal, officials said.

“All it takes is a gust of wind to get it going again, where it can quickly grow into a full-blown wildfire threatening not only the forest’s resources and private properties, but the people who live, work and play in the forest as well,” officials said in a statement.

California Campfire permits are free, and are obtained online after watching a short, educational video from CalFire. Not following the rules of the forest can be costly – a citation for violating fire restrictions is a federal offense punishable by a Class B misdemeanor, by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for an organization, or up to six months in prison.

Comments (3)
  1. I find it interesting that we are only talking about illegal campfires. The North Shore Campgroun in Lake Arrowhead has brush that is close to fire rings. By close I mean close enough for a hot ember on a larger fire to catch it. Then it is off to the races in dry grass. Very concerning that our campgrounds have been the lowest bidding camping companies who don’t watch over them like the campground hosts of old did. Some of my fondest memories camping in campgrounds was coming up to see the campground host who had skin in the game to make sure all had a good time and also watched out after the place. I am sure the hosts/hired companies care, but I don’t see them enforcing dead out fires at night. If it very concerning.

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