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Warming Fire Spreads to Adjacent Landowners

Background: It was a December night in the southeast and weather was cool and breezy. A hunting club was camping on a designated site on leased hunting property.

Personal Characteristics: There were five hunting club members and two guests in the camp. All were experienced hunters and familiar with the hunting club property.

Unsafe Act: A canopy tent was moved adjacent to the warming campfire. Damp clothes were strung across one side of the tent.

Accident: At 3:30AM embers from the fire blew onto a shirt which ignited. This caused the canopy tent to catch fire and spread to the adjacent land/forest.

Damages: Substantial fire damage occurred to the leased property as well as the property of several adjacent property owners. Timber damage exceeded $300,000. The adjacent landowners filed suit against the hunting club members/guests to recover their lost timber value.

Recommendations for correction: All fires or other ignition sources should be contained or extinguished prior to being left unattended. As a precaution camp fires should be discontinued during high risk fire days.

An emergency plan should be established and include emergency phone numbers for local fire departments, sheriffs, emergency dispatchers and landowners. Site location and directions to the site should be posted so emergency response can be directed to the location.

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