The Great Outdoors—Sans Campfires

Regulators are increasingly requiring outdoor adventurers to enjoy wilderness excursions without the solace and warmth of a campfire, as the drought and heat of climate change leaves natural areas ready to spark and burn year-round.

May 12, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A campfire in the wilderness, surrounded by a group of people, burns with the stars overhead.

The good old days. | JCA Images / Shutterstock

Conrad Swanson reports from Colorado, where campfires, that enduring symbol of the American West and the great outdoors, are increasingly illegal.

“The days of explorers ambling into Colorado’s backcountry, gathering kindling and sparking a fire for some supper and perhaps a s’more or two are gone,” writes Swanson for the Denver Post.

“Despite the spring months historically serving as a wet time of year, especially as snowpack begins to melt off, as of Tuesday, 24 of Colorado’s 64 counties and one Native American tribe reported at least some fire restrictions in place,” reports Swanson.

Regulators use a metric called energy release component (ERC)—basically the moisture levels in plants—to determine how hot a fire would burn and set campfire regulations accordingly. The ERC is up by as much as 50 percent around the American West, according to research and an expert cited in the source article.

Both state and federal land managers are responsible for the bans, which have become commonplace as wildfire risks grows and the state looks to protect not only its natural and built environments, but its $37 billion outdoor recreation economy.  

Thursday, May 5, 2022 in The Denver Post

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