More volunteers are signing up for Forest Watch after Sunshine Fire

Posted at 11:00 PM, Mar 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 01:00:27-04

BOULDER, Colo. -- After another Boulder County wildfire caused by what the sheriff's office called a campfire at a "transient campsite," dozens of new volunteers are signing up to help watch the forest for illegal activity.

"Oh my God, this is awful," said Joe Hall, while hiking to a Forest Service land campsite covered in trash and abandoned supplies. "This is devastating. No family would want to come camp here."

Several campsites are covered in piles of trash, and there is furniture, a refrigerator and a tent with a queen-sized mattress inside.

"This is a new kind of camper," Hall said. "They sometimes call themselves Travelers or Train Bums or Dirty Kids, and it’s people that are really just rejecting society and coming up to places like this to live."

Hall founded Peak to Peak Forest Watch last year, after he found a homeless campsite with dirty diapers and needles.

"The idea behind Peak to Peak Forest Watch is to give citizens a tool to really be involved with agencies in understanding and reporting what’s going on," said Hall, who said members are screened to ensure they live, work or play in the area.

More than 700 people have joined, and more are pouring in now, he said.

They are charged with documenting illegal activity, and videos on the Facebook group show unattended campfires and trashed forests. They also collect data and share information with local authorities.

The Boulder County Sheriff's Office has said law enforcement needs more community involvement, and they use information from groups like Peak to Peak Forest Watch.

Hall said their reports have exposed hundreds of problem campsites, and his biggest concern is that the next illegal campfire could claim his home.

"A small fire can blow up with the right conditions and devastate a community," said Hall.


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