(KERO) — The U.S. Forest Service announced it was closing almost all national forests in California due to the ongoing wildfires.
The closures will begin on Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. and remain in place until September 17th. The only exception is Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
In a statement released on Monday, the Forest Service said: “We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety. It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend when so many people enjoy our national forests.”
Wildfires have burned over 1.7 million acres across California this year and have left the National Wildfire Preparedness Level at PL5 - the highest level of wildfire activity - since July 14th.
Pacific Southwest National Forests:
They listed the factors that led to the decision as:
- By temporarily reducing the numbers of people on national forests, we hope to minimize the likelihood that visitors could become entrapped on National Forest System lands during emergency circumstances.
- The closure order will also decrease the potential for new fire starts at a time of extremely limited firefighting resources, and enhance firefighter and community safety by limiting exposure that occurs in public evacuation situations, especially as COVID-19 continues to impact human health and strain hospital resources.
- Due to state-wide conditions, any new fire starts have the potential for large and rapid-fire growth with a high risk to life and property. The Forest Service and our partners are absolutely doing all we can to fight these fires and will continue to do so, but the conditions dictate the need for this region-wide closure order.
- Forecasts show that conditions this season are trending the same or worse as we move into late summer and fall.
- Although the potential for large fires and risk to life and property is not new, what is different is that we are facing: (a) record level fuel and fire conditions; (b) fire behavior that is beyond the norm of our experience and models such as large, quick runs in the night; (c) significantly limited initial attack resources, suppression resources, and Incident Command Teams to combat new fire starts and new large fires; and (d) no predicted weather relief for an extended period of time into the late fall.
For exceptions to the closure, visit the U.S. Forest Service website.