Fine for illegal campfires on national forest land increased

The fine for having a campfire during a declared fire ban on national forest land just got stiffer. Daniel Boone National Forest officials, in a news release, announced they have increased the fine from $75 to a $500 minimum.

All violations will require a mandatory appearance in federal court. Up to six months imprisonment could be incurred in addition to a fine. Individuals who allow a campfire to escape and result in a wildfire may be required to pay restitution for suppression costs.

The fine increase comes as a result of numerous illegal campfires following a fire ban implemented on Oct. 8. The fire ban applies to national forest lands in the Red River Gorge and Cave Run Lake area. Since the ban, Forest Service law enforcement officers have issued nearly 200 violations for illegal campfires.

On Sunday, an escaped campfire led to an emergency Forest Supervisor's Order that closed an estimated 3,000 acres, including roads and trails, in the Auxier Ridge area of the gorge. Forest Service officials spent much of the early hours searching for backcountry campers and hikers in the closure area. All visitors were found safe.

The Auxier Ridge area remains closed to forest visitors. From Nada Tunnel to the Martins Fork trailhead parking area, Kentucky Highway 77 is closed to through traffic due to trees burning at the base and falling into the road.

Forest Service law enforcement officers witnessed three individuals running from the escaped campfire on Auxier Ridge. An investigation is ongoing.

The U.S. Forest Service is offering a reward up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for the escaped campfire on Sunday in the Red River Gorge. Anyone with information is asked to call Forest Service Patrol Captain Kimberly Kipp at 606-875-5042.

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