Emerald Fire Caused by Illegal Campfire in State Park

The emerald fire was contained to a quarter acre.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — An illegal campfire at a Lake Tahoe state park was the cause of the Emerald Fire, officials said Monday.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Diana Swart said the wildfire in Emerald Bay State Park “was a fire pit made of rocks, not a proper campground.”

The fire was reported around 7:15 a.m. Friday near the mouth of Emerald Bay and was visible across the lake. Multiple agencies responded with lead agency Cal Fire, including Meeks Bay Fire, North Tahoe Fire, South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue, Lake Valley Fire, Forest Service, State Parks and El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.

Firefighters limited the blaze to a quarter of an acre. By 9:30 a.m. the fire’s progress was stopped and by 2:30 p.m. the fire was 100% contained.

Fire districts around Lake Tahoe since June 1 have banned wood and charcoal fires. State parks don’t have the same restrictions much to the chagrin of local fire districts. Wood and charcoal fires are permitted only in state parks located in agency-provided fire rings or at designated sites.

The Tribune recently reported that legislation is progressing, Senate Bill 1012, which would require state parks to have policies at least as restrictive as the rules enacted by local fire districts.

No suspects have been identified for starting the Emerald Fire and Swart said it would be difficult to find any without the help of the community. Cal Fire offers a whistleblower line (1-800-468-4408) and encourages the community to report if they see anything they think is suspicious.

Although it is often difficult to prove negligence after the fact, social media posts could be used to press charges.


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