Feds Investigate Suspicious RV Boondocking Fires on BLM Land
Federal officials are investigating a pair of suspicious RV fires on Oregon BLM land near the city of La Pine.
Three RV fires burned in total in one day. The three separate fires quickly spread to surrounding land, one heading towards the city.
Here’s what we know.
Federal Authorities Investigating Pair of “Suspicious” RV Fires
Two abandoned RVs parked a quarter mile apart on BLM land in Oregon were found fully engulfed in flames early Sunday morning, June 20th.
La Pine firefighters found the RVs around 5:40 am after receiving calls about smoke columns from a BLM camping area near La Pine, Oregon. Both RVs were found fully involved and were destroyed by the fires. The flames also spread to nearby areas.
Thanks to low temperatures and low wind, crews contained the fires quickly.
Officials consider both early morning fires to be suspicious. Deschutes County and federal authorities are investigating the pair of early morning fires.
Three Boondocking RVs Destroyed By Separate Fires In the Same Day on La Pine BLM Land
Crews responded to a third RV fire later in the day in the Jackpine loop west of Highway 97, south of La Pine. The third RV fire happened around 3:20pm, and spread to surrounding land.
According to officials, the BLM area outside of La Pine is home to several RV campers, boondockers, transient camps, and abandoned vehicles.
RV Fires on BLM Land During Wildfire Season Could Spell Disaster for Nearby Communities
Mike Supskis, La Pine Rural Fire Protection District Chief, said:
“All three fires were on BLM lands that are unimproved and there’s basically no access to it… These people that were camped there or residing there were in an area that was very difficult to get into. They were basically trails through the woods. Our major apparatus could not get into those areas.”
Each of the RV fires totally destroyed the RVs and quickly spread into surrounding wildland, moving towards inhabited communities. The afternoon fire was located just a mile south of La Pine city limits.
Oregon’s Wildfire Season Came Early This Year
Oregon is facing an early wildfire season this year due to a drier than average spring.
More than one million acres burned in Oregon in 2020. 2020 was a historic wildfire season for the state. Officials are preparing for an active wildfire season in 2021, and say that they learned a lot from the 2020 fires.
Abandoned Camps and “Suspicious” Fires Can Cause BLM Land to Close
This year we’ve seen many BLM and public camping areas closed – some temporarily, and some permanently. These closures are all directly related to land abuse, overuse, transient camps, and abandoned vehicles and trash.
Abandoned vehicle fires in dry forested areas are a sure way to cause officials to close down an area to camping.
Abandoned vehicle fires are a danger to campers in the immediate vicinity and can quickly spread to nearby communities. They can burn down entire forests, endanger cities and businesses, wildlife, and more. This puts a tremendous strain on local law enforcement and firefighting resources as well as being a danger to human, animal, and plant life.
Just this week, the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests in Arizona implemented fire-related full closures. These forests are completely closed to camping, boondocking, hiking, and any recreational activity.
The closures affect all boondocking land in the area, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see more national forest and BLM lands in other wildfire-prone states to follow suit.
Should You Avoid Boondocking In the West This Summer?
Wildfire season seems to be kicking into full swing early this year across the hot, dry western states. Most boondocking out west is on BLM and national forest lands, which are directly impacted by wildfires and fire restrictions.
Since 2021 is shaping up to be an active fire season already, be sure to keep yourself informed at all times. Don’t camp in a dry area without cell signal, always have a backup plan, and be ready for things to change at a moment’s notice!
Pro Tip: Use a cell phone booster to enhance low signal while boondocking to stay up to date on the latest fire and weather conditions.
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