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Campers comply, biz feels chill after burn ban

It’s the first thing drivers see as they head into Lava Hot Springs: a roadside reader board with the words, “Burn ban, no fire, fireworks.”

It’s been weeks since Bannock County instituted a burn ban after the Charlotte fire claimed 66 homes in Pocatello. Open fires and fireworks have been banned, two staples of summertime fun, especially in Idaho’s tourism-dependent towns.

But head down to the Rivers Edge Campground, and there are no shortage of campers, including the Clark family. Shelley Clark said Sunday night was the family’s first time spending the night in Lava, and they have no problem complying with the ban.

“I mean, it’s okay, as far as the safety, I understand all that, but it’s not going to stop us from coming and camping, so, it’s okay,” Clark said.

Camp Host Bob Stoffers has been making sure his campers stay in compliance with the ban, but he said it hasn’t driven anyone away.

“I don’t think it’s hurt the business at all,” Stoffers said.

In fact, Stoffers said, Rivers Edge has been full every weekend in July.

“(The campers) are able to use the briquettes and the charcoal, so they adapt and everything’s been going really well,” he said.

While the Clarks made deli sandwiches at Rivers Edge, guests at the KOA campground are just checking in.

With no shortage of RVs and tents, owner Cory Unsworth said this is the first time he’s experienced a burn ban. He said his customers are definitely disappointed.

“What’s camping without s’mores?” Unsworth said.

Despite a few late night attempts to start fires, the campers are getting over it, he said. Unworth’s big problem is with a giant stack of unsold firewood sitting outside of the KOA General Store.

“It affects us in that way, that we’ll be out a few thousand dollars in firewood sales,” he said.

Those few thousand dollars are a substantial loss to his business, Unsworth said, and he wants Bannock County Commissioners to take a second look at the ban.

“We’d like to see, maybe, some adjustments to the ban,” he said.

The Windy Point Lumber Co., which supplies the KOA campground and many other area campgrounds, has asked Unsworth to write a letter to the commissioners to ask for a ban exception. Unsworth said he is going to write one.

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