With over 15 major wildfires raging across the state, the U.S. Forest Service announced California’s national forests are closed, effective Sept. 1. The closure of 18 national forests is in place despite many adventure seekers who planned to visit the local mountains this Labor Day weekend.
The closure is temporary and will be in effect through Sept. 17.
Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said in a press release, the decision was not made lightly but was the best choice for public safety. “It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests,” said Eberlein.
“With so many of our fire personnel up north, it limits our local capacity to quickly suppress new fire starts,” said Zach Behrens, a San Bernardino National Forest spokesperson. “Closing the forest, as tough as it is, not only helps prevent new fire starts but also from fires entrapping visitors, should one happen.”
According to CAL FIRE, there are currently over 14,300 firefighters on the frontlines of 15 major wildfires.
The Caldor Fire grew to be the 17th largest fire in California and the Monument Fire has become the 20th largest fire in California history.
Wildfires are nothing new. Exactly one year ago, the El Dorado Fire started in Yucaipa and forced the evacuations of hundreds of residents in mountain communities, Yucaipa and Oak Glen. It burned for over two months and ultimately charred over 22,000 acres in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
As of Jan. 1, 2021, wildfires have burned more than 1.8 million acres in California.
“Due to a lack of rain and early heat waves, live fuel moistures in the Yucaipa area are already past critical levels,” said Yucaipa Fire Chief Grant Malinowski. “This means any wildland fire has the potential to spread rapidly and be very resistant to firefighting efforts. These conditions were witnessed last year in the El Dorado and Apple fires. Preventing fires starts needs to be a priority for everyone.”