As wildfires rage in parts of the state, park officials are mitigating potential dangers by closing all forests to the public.
The USDA announced an order to close roughly 20 million acres of California’s national forests will be closed from Tuesday, August 31 until September 17. The decision follows a devastating series of wildfires raging across the state, which have already blazed through over 1.7 million acres so far. Forecasts show that the season is on track to be worse than last year—the worst wildfire devastation on record.
— Lassen NF (@LassenNF) August 31, 2021
“We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said in a statement.
Nine national forests of Northern California are already closed, but the order has been extended to the rest of the state ahead of Labor Day Weekend. Forest Service officials have taken this bold step to minimize risks, citing unprecedented fuel and fire conditions according to a press release.
The Caldor Fire has already forced 22,000 residents to evacuate South Lake Tahoe, causing severe gridlocks. Around 3,500 firefighters have been deployed to put out the blaze, but despite working tirelessly for over two weeks, over 191,000 acres have been burned through with just 16% contained.
Meanwhile, the Dixie Fire has obliterated over 800,000 acres over the last 48 days and is currently only 48% contained. It’s the second-largest wildfire on record in California, with several parks affected by it including half of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The speed and rate the wildfires will spread is expected outpace available resources, thus the order is likely to be extended further.
A list of national forests that are now closed in California:
- Tahoe National Forest
- Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
- Plumas National Forest
- Lassen National Forest
- Mendocino National Forest
- Klamath National Forest
- Six Rivers National Forest
- Shasta-Trinity National Forest
- Modoc National Forest
- Cleveland National Forest
- San Bernardino National Forest
- Angeles National Forest
- Los Padres National Forest
- Sequoia National Forest
- Sierra National Forest
- Stanislaus National Forest
- Inyo National Forest
Anyone found to violate the order will be fined up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both.
Featured image: Matt Howard via Unsplash