WASHINGTON — Nearly half of California’s national forests will be temporarily closed starting at 5 p.m. Monday due to a mixture of extreme heat and dangerous fire conditions, the U.S Forest Service announced Monday.
The closures include Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest, Cleveland National Forest, Los Padres National Forest, Stanislaus National Forest, Sierra National Forest, Sequoia National Forest and Inyo National Forest.
In addition, all developed campground and day-use sites on national forest lands will be shut down in the Golden State, while all ignition sources — such as campfires and gas stoves — will be prohibited, according to a statement on the Forest Service’s website.
The decision to implement closures and restrictions comes amid “the threat of unprecedented and dangerous fire conditions” that have stretched firefighting resources to the limit, the website stated.
Officials will re-evaluate when to reopen the forest lands on a daily basis, but did not indicate a time frame for when that could possibly happen.
This is the first time in decades that entire forests in the state have been closed due to wildfires, said Jonathan Groveman, spokesman for U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region.
However, Zach Behrens with San Bernardino National Forest told KTLA he believes the forest there was last closed nearly 13 years ago, as crews battled two concurrent fires in October 2007.
The actions were taken as fires continued to burn on federal lands across the Golden State, including two that erupted over the weekend and have scorched thousands of acres in the Angeles National Forest and the San Bernardino National Forest.
The larger of the two — the El Dorado Fire — has burned roughly 8,600 acres of the San Bernardino National Forest near Yucaipa and Oak Glen since it began Saturday afternoon. As of Monday, it was just 7% contained.
Officials said the inferno was sparked by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device during a gender reveal party.
And on Sunday, the Bobcat Fire erupted in the Angeles National Forest north of Azusa, charring more than 4,800 acres and threatening a seismic station near Mount Wilson Observatory. An evacuation order has been issued for the observatory.
Dozens more blazes are burning throughout the state amid an extreme heat wave that brought record-setting temperatures to the region over the long holiday weekend.
“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously. Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire,” Randy Moore, the regional forester for the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, said in the statement.
He added: “We are bringing every resource to bear nationally and internationally to fight these fires, but until conditions improve, and we are confident that National Forest visitors can recreate safely, the priority is always to protect the public and our firefighters.”
The state has 18 national forests, comprise roughly 3,125 square miles of California — about one-fifth of the state’s total land, according to the Forest Service.