California’s national forests close to visitors as wildfires rage

Due to the ongoing wildfire crisis, California’s national forests have been closed until September 17 in an effort to protect the public. However, the move is likely to alter the plans of the many people who would traditionally camp, bike or hike in the forests during the popular Labor Day weekend.

Unrelenting fires raging across the state have caused extensive damage, with the huge Caldor fire leading to the evacuation of thousands of people from the tourist town of South Lake Tahoe. As the wildfires are on track to surpass last year’s devastation, which was the worst on record, the temporary closures of Forest Service land has been mandated by the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region to safeguard the public and firefighters.

California’s Caldor Fire has caused extensive damage and evacuations © David Odisho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Officials have removed access to 20 million acres of California’s national forests to prevent visitors from being trapped during an emergency, decreasing the likelihood of new fires starting and limiting possible COVID-19 exposure among firefighters and the community. The order doesn’t affect the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is not in the Pacific Southwest Region, and it also doesn’t apply to state and national parks and private lands.

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Officials say that due to state-wide conditions, any new fires have the potential for large and rapid fire growth with a high risk to life and property. Those who violate the closure orders typically face fines of up to $5000.

“We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” said regional forester, Jennifer Eberlien, in a statement. “It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests.”

The closures will remain in effect until September 17 at 11.59pm and further information and updates can be found here.

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