DNRC Warns Abandoned Campfires Can Start Wildfires – Campers Could Be Held Liable for Firefighting Costs
A simple camping trip. An abandoned campfire sparks a wildfire, and the camper is liable for the costs of fighting the fire.
That scenario happens much more often than firefighters would like, but it can sound familiar to those who put their lives on the line to battle wildfires.
Public Relations specialist with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Jordan Koppen said abandoned campfires are a chronic problem.
"Conditions are so dry, and chances are we'll be headed to 'High' fire danger in the next few days," Koppen said. "We're trying to kick out the prevention message right now. We've had quite a few abandoned campfires, so we really need people to be very cautious when dealing with fire. People are going to be headed up the Swan for the fireworks show up there and we're just trying to let people know how dry it is out there, so we're just trying to get people to be careful."
Fire Information and Education Officer with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Crystal Beckman, said people who recreate outdoors must be made aware of the possible liabilities involved in negligent behavior.
"At the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation we are given state statutes that say if you start a fire, you could be held responsible for the costs of that fire," Beckman said. " These days, there are very few fires that could be affordable for a single person. They could range everywhere from $200,000 to half a million for an average fire."
"Fires are occurring across the state," Beckman continued. "It's very important during this very busy recreational time with the 4th of July coming up that we take extra steps to make sure that just one spark from either campfires, fireworks, or a wheel dragging along the ground doesn't start a fire. It's really important for the public to remember that fireworks are prohibited on all state and federal lands, or even private lands that are classified as forest. And, if you do start a fire, be sure to notify 9-1-1 immediately."