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Camper Fined $53k For Starting Grand Canyon NP Fire With Burning Toilet Paper

Inadvertent backcountry fires are just as dangerous, costly, and frustrating as intentional fires lit by arsonists. With the West burning seemingly in every mountain range, forest, and grassland, fire hygiene and responsibility is paramount. A camper in Grand Canyon National Park recently learned that the hard—and expensive—way.

The man, a 71-year-old backpacker from Flagstaff, Arizona, was camped near Cottonwood Creek back in October of 2019. In an attempt to dispose of used toilet paper, he set it on fire, in what quickly escalated to what would have been a hilarious scene, had it not kicked off a small wildfire.

Wind kicked up the flames of the burning TP and immediately ignited the hillside, with a small blaze racing to gain fuel. Fire fighters were notified quickly and rushed to suppress the fire, but not before 64 acres had burned.

The toilet paper burner entered a guilty plea this week, nearly one year after the blaze. He’s been ordered to pay $53,520 for restitution. He’ll also be assisting NPS officials with a campaign to snuff out accidental backcountry fires. The USFS says that 85% of wilderness fires are caused by humans. How much of that is from burning TP is another question entirely. Remember this next time a little paper burn at your campsite seems harmless.

Photo: NPS/Jacob Tung

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