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A crowded park, worsening wildfire danger sparks battle: 'I don't feel safe there anymore'

Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Campsites commonly sell out within minutes of becoming available for reservation.

“When visitation occurs in an unmanaged fashion away from appropriately designed facilities, visitors are more likely to engage in risky or unauthorized behavior, such as creating illegal campfires or using fireworks,” the proposed plan says.

There are currently 36 campsites within the park. An earlier version of the plan would have allowed more than 220 new sites, but that number was scaled back amid public outcry.

The plan does not authorize immediate construction of new campsites, and each new facility would require site-specific planning and evaluation of whether campfires should be allowed, State Parks told The Times.

In surrounding towns, residents say home values have plummeted and insurers have raised rates or canceled some homeowner policies in recent years, citing fire risk and proximity to campsites.


Judy, 61, said his longtime insurer canceled his homeowner policy last year. When he complained, he said, the company gave him an emergency kit with a flashlight, first-aid supplies and a thin emergency shelter tent.

Fulster, 29, grew up in Cool and now lives in the El Dorado County town of Pollock Pines. He said he was evacuated from the Caldor fire for 17 days and had been allowed back to his home four days before visiting Lake Clementine for a little relaxation in the park.

He was flabbergasted as he and his buddies were evacuated from the water because of a siege of flames.

“It seemed a little unreal,” Fulster said. “It was almost like some dark comedy.”

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