Boater leaves fire burning, shoreline a ‘mess’ on Lake Wylie

news@lakewyliepilot.comAugust 5, 2013 

— Thanks to the many eyes keeping a watch on Lake Wylie, a blaze left unattended on the Gaston County shoreline was safely extinguished. However, there is other damage at the site.

“The flame was about 5 feet,” said CD Collins, head of the Gaston County Covekeepers, a Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation affiliate group made up of volunteer residents. “And it was starting to spread.”

Collins said a dock construction crew alerted him to the fire this morning. Collins went to the beach cove, located on the Stowe estate in Belmont, called out, but no one responded. Gaston County Police and New Hope Volunteer Fire Department arrived by boat and doused the flame with a fire extinguisher.

Firefighter Logan Sauceda said the call came in at about 11 a.m.

“It looked like an abandoned campsite,” he said.

Sauceda said if it hadn’t been raining so much, it may have spread.

“Be aware of your surroundings,” he warned.

Collins said a neighbor across the lake seeing activity at the site, called him.

“He said he’d seen them leave by boat,” Collins said. “They trashed that place out.”

Collins said not only was the fire left unattended, but they cut down trees to make a platform in the trees.

“I’m upset with the fact that they destroyed property and left a fire burning,” Collins said. “They have no right to chop down those trees, and they are gone forever now.

“It also violates the buffer zone rules,” Collins said.

Duke Energy reminded boaters in May as Memorial Day launched the boating season that camping, fires, littering, removal of any vegetation and permanent structures are strictly prohibited on any of the lakes’ public recreation access areas, islands or along the shoreline.

Sgt. Doug Hord with Gaston County Police said the camper could be cited for destroying vegetation for cutting down the trees and possibly for trespassing.

Hord also reminds boaters that Duke Energy no longer allows camping on the islands between sunset and sunrise, and it’s only legal to camp on the shoreline properties “if you have permission from the property owner.”

Looking around the site, Collins counted the chopped down trees, about 11, one stump still holding the hatchet used, along with litter, a gas can, a tackle box, baseball cap, blanket and personal flotation device, and a rod and reel still in the water.

“They were planning on coming back,” Collins said.

Collins said it’s important to for people to contact the Riverkeeper Foundation when they see possibly violations.

“All we’re doing is trying to get people to stop and not get penalized,” he said, “and to protect the environment.”

For information on the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, visit catawbariverkeeper.org.

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