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Teller County wildfire now 25 percent contained

Fire along Rampart Range Road called 'The 300'

Teller County wildfire 25 percent contained

TELLER COUNTY, Colo. - The U.S, Forest Service increased its containment Tuesday of a small wildfire in Teller County from 10 to 25 percent.

USFS spokesperson Dawn Sanchez said the fire is called The 300 Fire because it's burning along Forest Service Road 300 -- commonly known as Rampart Range Road -- a few miles northeast of Woodland Park.

The fire has burned around seven acres and is not threatening any homes, she said, and 20 firefighters are at the scene.

The USFS determined that a campfire left unattended, started the wildfire when the wind blew hot ashes or embers around.

"We think the campfire smoldered for a couple of days before it spread," Sanchez said.  "We don't know who lit the campfire because no one was there when we arrived."

Sanchez said it's at least the third time in three days that the USFS received a report of an unattended campfire that rangers extinguished, and a suspect was determined in one of the campfires.

"An illegal campfire is one that is left unattended, is not properly extinguished or was started during a period of fire restrictions," she said.  "You can be fined $300 and also have to pay the cost of the firefighting effort."

Sanchez said the recent rash of unattended campfires highlights a growing problem -- one that the USFS can't solve.

"In the last five years, just in the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, we've counted well over 1,000 illegal campfires," she said.  "Those campfires started 120 wildfires.  But we're at a loss on how to reduce them or stop them, despite all the public education we do."

Sanchez said some campers are so eager to enjoy a campfire that they willingly accept the fine.

Last summer's High Chateau Wildfire, also in Teller County, started when three male suspects started a campfire on private land and left it without completely extinguishing it, even with fire restrictions in effect and a warning from a suspect's father.

That fire destroyed nearly a dozen homes.

"You're responsible for the fire you start," Sanchez said.  "If you start it, don't leave it without being certain it's out.  Use water and dirt.  Make sure it's cold to the touch.  A campfire can retain heat for a long time.  We're asking people to realize that and be responsible."

Sanchez said the fire is burning mostly grasses, and would have been worse if not for recent moisture that protected most trees in the area.

"We've had a wet winter and spring but it only takes a few sunny days and some wind for conditions to dry out again."

David Garza, 16, is a Colorado Springs high school student who was visiting his grandparents near the fire.​​​​​​​

"It's not that people don't know about the danger of campfires," he said.  "I think it's that they don't care.  They'll leave a campfire unattended because it's easier to start if or when they come back, they don't have to start over again."

Garza looked the part of a wildland firefighter as he wore the trademark fire-retardant clothing while watching the fire.

"I want to fight forest fires someday," he said.


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