Some residents in the Maxwell Falls area are frustrated that the U.S. Forest Service isn’t taking advantage of their offer to walk through the area to look for unattended campfires that …
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Some residents in the Maxwell Falls area are frustrated that the U.S. Forest Service isn’t taking advantage of their offer to walk through the area to look for unattended campfires that could have devastating consequences for Evergreen and Conifer.
The residents offered their sharp eyes, walking feet and area knowledge to the U.S. Forest Service after an unattended campfire on Oct. 24 was spotted by a neighbor and was extinguished by firefighters before it got out of control. Maxwell Falls and other federal lands are closed because of the high wildfire danger, and the campfire was spotted during the closure.
The Forest Service says having anyone — whether sanctioned or not — hiking in the popular park off of Brook Forest Road gives others who are not supposed to be there an excuse to hike there, too. In addition, the Forest Service doesn’t want civilians confronting people who are illegally hiking or camping in the area.
“The best ways the public can help,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Reid Armstrong, “is to spread the word about the closure, to be ready (to evacuate) in case of a wildfire and engage in (the area’s) Firewise programs.”
Armstrong said Forest Service personnel, plus Jeffco Sheriff’s deputies and county personnel were patrolling the closed parks, though she was unsure how often they were at Maxwell Falls.
“People need to lead by example,” Armstrong said. “They can be the eyes and ears from their homes. Since it’s a forest closure, they shouldn’t be using the forest even when it’s out their backdoor.”
But Mindy Hanson, who lives near Maxwell Falls, said removing daily hikes increases the risk of a fire getting out of control because neighbors know where people tend to camp.
“As someone who has lived up here a long time,” Hanson said, “we need someone to monitor this,” adding that federal and local officials don’t have enough manpower to really keep an eye on the area.
“We could have had another Paradise, Calif., fire here if no one had found (the fire on Oct. 24), Hanson said. “We feel this is a serious concern, a serious danger, and they are brushing us off.”
Mendhi Audlin, who also lives in the area, added that with the wildfire danger so high, it was important to be vigilant.
“We love the trails (in Maxwell Falls),” Audlin said, “and it’s taken a village to keep it clean. The neighbors have taken ownership of the area.”
Hanson said her group of volunteers wants to work in partnership with the Forest Service and the Jeffco Sheriff’s office.
“We don’t want to write tickets or contact anybody,” she said. “We want to walk the trail and high-risk areas to make sure nothing is smoldering or actively on fire, then call 911 if there’s a problem.”
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