Opinion: Fire Danger Justifies an El Dorado County Campfire Moratorium
Dear Ms. Santiago & Messrs: Briggs, Mikulaco, Veerkamp,
As you may be aware, there was a fire at Camp Lotus (July 6, 2014) which required significant resources to extinguish it. It is my understanding that the ignition source of this fire was campfire material. As you may recall the recent Rim Fire and the Angora fires were caused by campfires. I’m reasonably certain that those who were responsible for starting those fires had no intention of doing so.
California is in the midst of an extreme drought and resulting high fire danger. We are simply courting disaster by allowing any campfires during this extremely dry period. Campfires are not necessary, as other alternatives are readily available for cooking and light (if needed).
While the campground owners and their operators may have the best of intentions with regard to fire safety, it not possible for them to present at all times and to monitor the operations of their campgrounds. Let’s not forget that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Many, if not all, of the visitors to these campgrounds are from “city” or “suburban” environments where they have little if any exposure to campfires, wild land fires and the campground’s close proximity to areas of dry brush and timber. Simply considering this moratorium from a cost/benefit perspective, any benefits of allowing campfires during this extremely dry period are easily outweighed by the cost of fire fighting and the potential loss of life and property. Such a moratorium could be put into effect until we have our first rains at which time the ban could be lifted.
The most important consideration and often conveniently overlooked fact is the complete and total lack of any emergency evacuation plan for the Coloma-Lotus area. Both Camp Lotus and The Coloma Resort are accessed by one lane bridges. Let us not forget that a house on Carver Road has a Special Use Permit for weddings. Can you imagine for a moment the chaos that would occur with a fire on the East side of the Mount Murphy bridge with hundreds (yes hundreds!) of residents, wedding guests and “campers” attempting to all evacuate at one time?
As you may recall, Carver Road is a “Dead End” road which only leaves the one lane Mt. Murphy Bridge, Bayne Road and Mt Murphy Road for everyone to use as exits and for fire and emergency personnel for access. Mt. Murphy Road is a single lane road much in need of grading, turn-outs, culverts and related repairs. Bayne Road is somewhat better but it has a single lane for most of its length with few turn-outs or places to pass. The access to and from Camp Lotus fares only slightly better from an access perspective with long “dead end” roads and only one other exit.
I respectfully request the Board immediately move to implement a campfire moratorium for the remainder of this camping season until such time sufficient rains have come to negate the fire danger. Further, the need for an Emergency Evacuation Plan for the Coloma-Lotus area is long overdue and efforts should be undertaken to complete such a plan as soon as possible.
The risk of wildfire is significant and your actions can make El Dorado County a safer place to live, without causing undue hardship to anyone and without expending any County resources.
Robert P. Day, Jr. (Bob Day)