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Nederland residents want permanent ban on campfires

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NEDERLAND, Colo. -- Residents in the Boulder County town of Nederland are banding together to try to minimize the chance of another wildfire.

They want to permanently outlaw all campfires near the town and get rid of any campgrounds that don’t have a host.

A little more than a week ago, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said two transients from Alabama started the Cold Springs Fire when they failed to put out a campfire.

For Nederland business owner John Thompson, it was a classic case of “I told you so.”

“I’ve been preaching it for months,” he said. “Left unchecked these people will degrade to 'Lord of the Flies.' They have no control over what they’re doing.”

He and others are now patrolling campsites looking for illegal fires. Fires are temporarily banned in dispersed campgrounds. Thompson said dispersed camping areas near the town are being overrun by transients.

“You can say fixing the problem (at dispersed campgrounds) isn't specific to where the fire started, but what they have in common is illegal campers,” he said.

Thompson and others are also trying to convince the U.S. Forest Service to permanently ban campfires in campgrounds without a host, although Sylvia Clark, a ranger with the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests, said that likely won’t happen anytime soon.

“Having a campfire is integral I think to people's experience of camping, and we don't take that lightly,” Clark said.

Almost 1,000 people have also signed a petition to close campgrounds that don’t have a campground host.

Michael Schneider does not support that plan. He and nine other men have been living in a dispersed campground near Nederland for more than a week.

"People will think what they will. You shouldn’t have to pay to camp, especially in Nederland. Dispersed camping’s great,” he said.

Schneider claims he was dropped off at the campground by a sheriff’s deputy. He said others were as well.

"I guess we're a subculture of people, but people are individuals,” he said.

The U.S. Forest Service has a 14-day limit on camping, but the agency didn’t have specific numbers regarding how many are cited every year.

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