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California's National Forests temporarily closing just days before Labor Day weekend

Posted at 5:33 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 22:46:26-04

Fire danger is something the U.S. Forest Service says prompted them to make the difficult decision to temporarily close all National Forests in California to visitors.

"It's pretty devastating, you know, people have the opportunity to have a good time, and then all of a sudden, the fires,” said Santa Maria resident Phil Elliano.

The closure begins Tuesday, August 31 at 11:59 p.m. and extends through Friday, September 17 at 11:59 p.m.

As wildfires rage across the state of California and peak wildfire season arrives, forest land across California could be at great risk, posing a threat to people, property, and wildlife.

"All of our trails, all of our back-country, dispersed campgrounds, OHV areas will be closed so that we can make sure that we don't have another potential fire start for our area,” said Los Padres National Forest Public Affairs Officer Andrew Madsen.

According to Madsen, their resources have been battling fires since June.

With Labor Day weekend ahead, Madsen says they anticipated big crowds at the campgrounds, adding they were fully booked.

"We know that having to cancel those reservations is going to disappoint a lot of campers that were looking forward to this but we certainly hope that those people understand that this was a tough call,” he said.

In a statement, the U.S. Forest Service said, in part, "Although the potential for large fires and risk to life and property is not new, what is different is that we are facing record level fuel and fire conditions; fire behavior that is beyond the norm of our experience."

According to the U.S. Forest Service, more than 6,800 wildfires have already burned 1.7 million acres of national forest across California.

"They gotta do what they have to do, you know. It's a concern of the public and obviously, they are taking the right step,” Elliano said.

The closure will remain in place through September 17 and does not apply to Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is primarily in Nevada.

A violation of this order could result in a fine of $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization or imprisonment for no more than six months or both.

To see who is exempt from this order, click here.