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All National Forests In California Are Closed

Dry conditions in the Cleveland National Forest, prompt federal officials to close the forest to the public on Aug. 31, 2021.
Erik Anderson
Dry conditions in the Cleveland National Forest, prompt federal officials to close the forest to the public on Aug. 31, 2021.

All national forests in California are being closed to the public through the middle of September.

Federal officials say they are concerned about the possibility of wildfires raging out of control.

All National Forests In California Are Closed
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

The news comes less than a week before the Labor Day weekend, a traditionally busy holiday for the national forests.

“We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” said Jennifer Eberlien, Regional Forester at the United States Department of Agriculture.

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Hot conditions and a lack of rain have dried out the mountain environment, raising the risk of a major wildfire.

Forest Service officials hope to minimize the number of visitors who could get trapped during a wildfire, reduce changes of people starting a blaze, and relieve pressure on firefighting resources that are already under strain because of ongoing wildfires.

The news did not sit well with the owners of the Mount Laguna Lodge and General Store.

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They were dumping bags of ice into their parking lot because they did not expect to sell them because of the closure.

“We didn’t get any advance notification so,” said Tom, who did not want to give his last name. “We stocked up on ice cream and potato chips for this long weekend and all that stuff will date out, milk and bread, so it’s kind of a pain economically.”

He worries about the risk of fire, but he also questions why state parks, just down the road, are not under the same restrictions.

Owners at the Laguna Mountain Lodge dump ice they were planning to sell Labor Day weekend on Aug. 31, 2021.
Erik Anderson
Owners at the Laguna Mountain Lodge dump ice they were planning to sell Labor Day weekend on Aug. 31, 2021.

Even so, optimism remains.

“Almost 100 years this business has been here, so, it somehow survives,” Tom said.

Forecasts indicate the hot dry weather that has dried out fuels in the back country is expected to remain in the area for some time.

Federal officials say the risk for major fires is not new, but record levels of dry fuel, the potential for rapid fire growth and the region has only a limited number of aircraft capable of hitting fires early

“With all the fires that are going on in Northern California and the fire we just had on the Cleveland National Forest this past Saturday showed the example of how quickly fires can start and how rapidly they can spread,” said Nathan Judy of the Cleveland National Forest.

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In fact, Judy was contacted just outside of Redding, California where he is helping fight the Monument Fire. The fire has grown to more than 170,000 acres with 2,415 firefighters taking part in the effort to control the flames.

More than 6,800 wildfires have burned 1.7 million acres across all jurisdictions in California.

The national wildlife preparedness level has been at level five since mid July — only the third time that has happened in two decades.

The national forests will remain closed until Sept. 17.

Federal officials will re-evaluate the conditions and decide whether the closure will be extended.

Climate researchers say the conditions being experienced this summer will likely only intensify are the planet's climate warms in coming years.