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home : opinions : letters June 28, 2016

9/11/2012 10:45:00 AM
Letter: Slap on the wrist will not deter careless campers

To the editor:

The sentencing of the Malboeuf cousins was a mere slap on the wrist. Two days in jail and 200 hours of community service in exchange for 538,000 ruined acres of national forest, $79 million in firefighting costs and $5 million in private property damage. Perhaps it was the most severe penalty available to the judge for a misdemeanor offense, but contrary to Judge Aspey's opinion that this sentence should act as a deterrent to careless campers, it falls well short of sending any strong message regarding the consequences of campfire negligence.

Once again, the ball falls squarely into the court of the U.S. Forest Service. Since the legal penalties for starting wildfires via campfires are so weak and disproportionate to the resulting horrific cost and widespread destruction, the Forest Service, which staunchly stands behind the necessity of campfires for "recreational enhancement," must initiate measures, which will make such campfires safer.

The answer is education. The Malboeufs, reportedly experienced campers, apparently did not know that they should have cleared an area around their campfire ring, put the fire out with water, and felt the dead embers with their bare hands before leaving the area.

It is the suggestion of Campfires Limited that the Forest Service issue free online campfire permits good for use during a specified time period and in a predetermined general location. Educational information would accompany each permit and detail how to have a safe campfire and how to put it out. At the site of any campfire, the FS should require, along with the permit itself, five gallons of water, a shovel and a cleared area adjacent to the fire ring. Such a permit system might make campers more responsible, as their personal information would be on file with the FS, and just maybe, we can avoid at least some of these heart wrenching wildfires.

Luann Meek

Campfires Limited

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Article comment by: Harriet Lockwood

I have to agree that the people should get more time in jail. I know about the lighting and we can't help that but we can do control burns when we have had plenty of water or snow. Like the control burn that was set by FS off of devil Dog road and it ended to a forest fire. It could have gone up Bill Williams mountain. Also the one on San Frisco peaks tha a indivial called in and the FS said they did not see the fire and look what happened. I think we need to educate the people in the Forest Service about our beautiful land.

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Article comment by: Juan Sanchez

Ron, not everyone has common sense. The two men from Flagstaff are proof of that I wish they did have sense but that's what education is about. Drunks camping are a lost cause.

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Article comment by: Ron Pauly

Im for letting fires burn.Protecting peoples homes is good.I visited someones home on the edge of Williams.I noticed trees right up to the house and pine needles a foot deep.I wonder how many homes are like this?No cleared off areas around homes.Mabe more visiting homeowners and pointing out problems like this.
Putting out your campfire is just common sense.

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Article comment by: Keith Wilmot

maybe if the FS spent less money on burns and more on signage and education it would help?

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Article comment by: Eleanor Kellet

I agree with Ms Meek. Its high time to enforce the law and especially here in the pines. First we need to educate our children about forest fires in our homes and schools. Then, we need to make the punishment so severe that campers will think twice before they leave a campfire. Of course, being drunk is no excuse. Fires are the worst thing imaginable. Our precious forest should be respected. Going back to sleep now. Great ideas, Luann! I hope the forest rangers tell all campers, hunters, hikers, and pass out how to flyers. It might be a good idea too to go to the schools and have a live demonstration on how to correctly put out fires.

Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Article comment by: oh ok

How is that going to help? They caught the guys responsible and they were punished, just not as severely as you would want. The FS is alrady underfunded, and what are you going to do about the lightening fires, send mother nature a memo?

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