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What is an illegal fire ring?

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What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby rlown » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:28 pm

Given some of the things I've seen going on in other forums, and even here in the past, What makes a fire ring illegal?

The givens:

above the elevation limit set in the regulations.
too close to a lake or stream.
newly formed rings.. What does "new" mean? THIS REALLY needs definition.

anything else?

I've busted up a few. Not a fan of silly rings and try and toss the rocks either into a lake or more than 20 yds away from site. Then cover the ashes. not much you can do with them. Also, on my last trip, there was leftover trash (unburned in the pit; TP mostly). Although it was an "established" campsite, it's pretty disgusting someone cant finish the job.



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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby markskor » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:55 pm

John Dittli wrote:yup... I was astounded by the number of people still building fires after the closures this summer!

Building fire rings...destroying rings...
Seriously conflicted here, mostly about those who think they are doing good by taking upon themselves to destroy all fire rings found. Sure, when the fire closure edict came down last season, there was no valid reason to construct a ring, much less build a fire. We all saw what happened with the Yosemite Rim fire - an illegal fire and 400 square miles charred.

However, when fires are allowed, where/when legal (9,600 foot rule, far enough from the trail and water, etc), why destroy all the rings found? Destination lakes (generally off-trail and miles in) usually have only a few adequate camp sites available to camp at - flat, big enough, far enough away from trails, etc, etc and coincidentally, many hikers in the past have hiked/visited there previously, enjoyed fires there (when allowed), and countless more will undoubtedly visit this lake again in the future.

Recently, many have taken up an agenda of destroying all rings found anywhere Sierra, even those rings which had been deemed "legal" and erected countless years before. Surprisingly, Yosemite even asks for volunteers to tear down fire rings. Next season, when new visitors arrive again at the same destination lake, the old ring is now gone - courtesy of some do-gooder who disassembled it. Invariably, a new ring will be erected there again...probably close to the old ring...and so it goes. An ash scar, remnants from the old ring, ostentatiously standing out and a the new ring, probably soon to be broken down again too - (BTW, How long does it take for nature to repair the ashes?). Thus all will contribute more ashes to the site, essentially expanding the site's trash footprint.

I would rather the original ring be left alone, rather than the countless destroyings and rebuildings.

So, here is my question - If it is illegal to construct new fire rings anywhere Sierra, but the site in question has always held a ring, is it legal to re-construct another ring where one has stood for decades? Why not leave the well-established rings alone?
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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Dec 31, 2013 2:45 pm

A fire ring simply points out where a fire has been located in the past. The rock ring is really not needed. My gripe is people who do not fully burn their fires leaving an ever-growing pile of ashes. I do remove ashes (burry or scatter thinly out of view) if needed but I would not take out the fire ring. I agree that if you "clean up" the area, another ring would simply be built. As for ashes, if ashes are never cleaned out, the fire pit grows bigger and bigger and does become an eye sore. I do get really upset when unburned garbage is left in the pits.

Campfires have their place in a wilderness. Lots of backpackers do not use them, but that does not make campfires, per se, a bad thing. There is a time and place. I would rather see one clean established campsite with a fire ring, than have everyone build a new fire pit because the old one is gone. The public needs to be educated on proper campfires- no bonfires, use only on the ground wood, put them totally out, leave no garbage, and do not use during restricted times of fire danger. If you are going to have a campfire, you need to be sure you can build a good fire (not the smoldering smoky kind) and know all the aspects of campfire safety. There are few places that the public can learn these skills anymore, with all the extremists preaching no fires at all.

Add to the list of "illegal", 1) the campfire that is left smoldering, not fully extinguished, 2) the one with garbage, and 3) the one that is built in a non-fire-safe location (such as under the limbs of a big tree). I would also add that a campsite with torn, mangled tree limbs due to poor wood gathering, should also be deemed "illegal".
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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby Rockchucker » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:19 pm

My grandpa always said its best to build an Indian fire, meaning only enough to get you by and when your done no one can tell a fire has been there for a hundred years. Small and discreet.
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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby oldranger » Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:33 pm

I like Rockchucker's grandpa's style. The issue is interesting. No longer a ranger I no longer remove even illegal fire rings. Primarily because I don't carry the tools to do it properly in a reasonable time. Gotta have at least a full size shovel to remove all ashes down to dirt if the fire ring is in a flat clearing. Just hate the thought of someone pitching their tent or sitting down on ashes. If someone built a fire against a large rock removing the fire ring and ashes without removing the black is just inviting another fire ring. It is possible to remove the black but few of us carry oven cleaner and wire brushes. My big gripe is multiple fire rings at a single site.

So you get to a site with a legal fire ring but it is overflowing with ashes. how do you deal with the ashes? 1. Sort thru ashes and remove glass, foil, and other non burnable objects and put these into your trash bag. 2. Use a pan to remove ashes. 3. Two places I have successfully disposed of ashes: dense brush and right in the middle of a trail (it is amazing how rapidly ashes disappear if spread thinly down the trail. Please don't simply move ashes on to a pile 2 feet from the fire ring.

Final thought. Removing the last fire ring from a site where a fire is legal is wrong, especially when it is illegal to build a new fire ring. That is management that is likely to result in people violating regs.

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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby freestone » Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:46 am

If it's ugly, it's illegal.
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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:55 pm

Problem with the "ugly" criteria, is that one person's "ugly" is another's "beautiful". There are some established campsites that I have to admit are quite ingeniously built and yes, "beautiful". I also have super environmentalist friends, to whom, ANY fire ring is "ugly" because they simply abhor fires in the first place, and any remaining signs of a campfire offends their sensibilities.

On the other hand, like is said about pornography, you know what it is when you see it. There are some pretty universal attributes of an ugly campfire ring. I think the most disgusting campfire ring I ever saw was one where a hunter left a decaying deer hide right there in the fire pit along with tin cans, beer bottles and horse poo all over the campsite.

I do not see myself as the self-appointed moral cop of the wilderness. I may report to authorities the most ugly or what I see as illegal messes I come across, and definitely will stop to fully put out an abandoned fire, but that is about as far as I go.
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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby oldranger » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:41 pm

Daisy beat me to answering. The only thing that I would hope (undoubtedly a futile hope) is that there is consensus that anything other than ashes in a fire ring is ugly, not to mention illegal.

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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby rlown » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:54 pm

agreed. I never mind cleaning out clean ash from a legal ring. Yes, the 2 quart pot works well for that. If it's got other unburned "trinkets" in it, it does tick me off.

I didn't bust up a completely illegal fire ring 2 years ago on the shore of Paris on the East side of the lake. It was occupied and they were burning at 9pm above 11k. :\ Yet, I smelled smoke where it was not supposed to be, so i meandered over. Almost to the second i said, "hey, no fires allowed" they doused it. They didn't think it would hurt given it was downed wood.

It was a nice visit with the 20 somethings anyway.
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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:45 pm

I do not see myself as the self-appointed moral cop of the wilderness. I may report to authorities the most ugly or what I see as illegal messes I come across, and definitely will stop to fully put out an abandoned fire, but that is about as far as I go.

Exactly. Unfortunately, one thing I've noticed over the last decade is that it seems to be becoming more and more either people who don't think the rules apply to them or "self-appointed moral cop[s] of the wilderness."
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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:37 am

The only fire rings I break up are ones clearly far above the fire line. Normally in heavier traveled areas.

I have built plenty of fire rings myself which I guess is not allowed but it's a mixed sort of law. I understand that they don't want a ton of rings all over which was probably the worst I had seen in French Canyon where you would climb to Merriam Lake. For hundreds of yards on both sides of the trail I found fire rings all of which were not even useable. Most of the camps hardly had a place to lay your body. But on the other hand you get examples of how I stayed at Upper Tent Meadow on the Copper Creek Trail. There is only a couple places to camp there and the largest and most functional had no fire pit and clearly had signs that several had been broken up in the past. Being at 8600 feet I saw no reason I couldn't have a fire there so I made a new pit. Illegal? I guess... but where does that grey area fall? I just use my own judgement. I am pretty good at locating existing camp sites and once I feel I have exhausted the possibility of finding one I establish a new site and normally put allot of thought into where I will place a fire ring. Something I wish more people would do.
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Re: What is an illegal fire ring?

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:39 pm

I haven't an issue with firerings in legal areas or those same rings during fire closures. But have been publicly complaining for years about those who build fires and firerings in illegal areas. Most who do so are well aware they are doing something illegal. And every summer I see lots of these illegal firerings in timberline areas and break up many.

The more obvious illegal fires are being made by the inconsiderate evening bonfire types at our beautiful timberline lakes. Their groups seem to spend quite a bit of time in their surrounding local campsite areas carrying and dragging all loose large wood back to their camps. And of course they are ALWAYS going to lug a bunch of big rocks from the surrounding areas in order to build up some huge stone structure. Often it is one of those oven type fireplaces up against some large boulder. At beautiful Anne Lake in the Silver Divide I found three of them and that took quite a bit of time to tear them all apart. At one on a bench above the lake, I carried and dragged most of the wood 30 feet to a 15 foot cliff where I tossed them all into the lake where the breeze quickly sailed them out to the middle.

The perpetrators choose to do so mainly because enforcement in the backcountry particularly in NF wilderness is so sparse and because the majority of wilderness users if they see a group ignoring policy are unlikely to say anything. The latter issue is where I have tried to nudge others as peers to be more active. There are always going to be few backcountry rangers performing enforcement even if they are increased to levels we used to see before Reagan laid most off in the 1980s. Because of that it is important for at least some of we enthusiasts to at least in some small way, confront those who feel they can do whatever they want. The same perpetrators are of course likely to be making campsites too close to water sources, washing their cooking utensils using soap directly at lakeshores, and generally ignoring rules as though they are above the rest of us.

Some people mainly because they are so emotional, do not have the interpersonal skills to confront people anywhere including those at their workplace or elsewhere in their everyday lives. But some of us who can do so calmly and intelligently, can and I hope that includes some reading this. The usual response I get is one of embarrassment. And don't tell them not to make a fire but rather let them do so on their own after considering what I said about what they are doing. The next time they are in the same situation they are going to have to wonder if some other backpacker out there might confront them likewise.
Last edited by SSSdave on Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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