Big Bear Valley, CA/ San Bernardino National Forest — Within the last week, there have been three fires in our area and all of them on the San Bernardino National Forest. The first of these took place last Friday, June 18, and was located off Highway 38 near Glass Road, between Seven Oaks and Jenks Lake. Though this small fire was contained within an hour’s time and held to under half an acre, the Big Bear Hot Shots crew with the San Bernardino National Forest remained on scene for days to monitor the situation, given the heavy duff and downed trees and logs in the area. Though U.S. Forest Service investigators are still seeking the instigators, it has been determined that the cause stems from an abandoned campfire. According to the Forest Service’s John Miller, “What people often don’t realize is that those campfires can also escape underground, so it’s not always a case of the wind blowing the embers, as a fire can burn through duff and ground litter.” As it turns out, Tuesday morning’s fire, also on the forest but much closer to home (as it was about half-way up the hillside from Division Boulevard on Big Bear’s North Shore) was also the result of an escaped campfire from what appears to have been a squatter’s camp. “This,” adds Miller, “is why we only allow people to have campfires in our fire rings in our designated sites on the San Bernardino National Forest, because often the area is otherwise not properly cleared. This also applies to charcoal barbecues because the charcoals continue to retain heat, so this is why barbecues are also not permitted outside of designated campsites on the forest.” Miller adds that the other piece in this is that access is an issue in instances where a campfire continues to burn—as was the case off Highway 38 last week—and can go undetected until they smolder to the point of causing a forest fire, and often—as in Tuesday’s fire—in areas difficult for firefighting crews to reach. The third of this week’s small fires on the forest took place near Holcomb Valley just before noon on Wednesday. It was reported by volunteers, one with the forest’s off-highway vehicle program, and another from a fire lookout; the agency’s Heaps Peak helicopter then surveyed the area to find the exact location of the small spot fire, which was then extinguished by ground units with the San Bernardino National Forest.