It’s a well established rule of camping and backpacking that you put out your campfire before you pack up and leave. And “put out” means that the fire has to be thoroughly drowned with water. Not just covered with dirt, or with a little splash of water, but really wet. You should be able to put your hand on your freshly extinguished campfire and not feel any heat.
Unfortunately, not everyone is a responsible camper, and campfires are often left unattended and not properly extinguished. Besides being bad manners and poor form, unattended campfires can, and do, start wildfires. That’s why it is illegal to leave a campfire unattended.
Colorado’s legislators recognized that leaving a campfire unattended punishable by a minor fine and no possibility of jail time wasn’t enough to stop people from being irresponsible and acted to create more of a deterrence.
Colorado House Bill 18-1051, which became law on July 1st, 2018, elevated the penalty for leaving a campfire unattended from what was a class 2 petty offense with a $50 fine to what is now a class 3 misdemeanor with a punishment of a “minimum sentence of a $50 fine up to a maximum of 6 months imprisonment, or a $750 fine, or both”.
An “unattended” campfire includes failure “to reasonably attend the campfire at all times” or failure to “thoroughly extinguish the campfire before leaving the site”.
So, do yourself and everyone who enjoys our forests and grasslands a favor and drown your campfire! You’ll protect our lands, and keep yourself out of trouble.
Here’s a short video from the US Forest Service showing how to build and extinguish a campfire: