All California national forests temporarily shutting down amid wildfire concerns

If you were planning a hiking or camping trip this Labor Day weekend – particularly at a California national forest – don't pack your tent just yet.

The USDA Forest Service announced earlier in the week it is temporarily closing all California National Forests in the wake of wildfire concerns.

The closure will be in effect from Tuesday, August 31 at 11:59 p.m. through Friday, September 17 at 11:59 p.m. 

"Our resources are stretched so thin," Diane Travis, a public information officer, told FOX 11. "We can't afford another start. Not with these conditions."

Travis is referring to the record heart, lack of rain and dry brush.

They do not want to take a chance at someone starting a fire that they can’t stop, let alone hikers getting caught in the fast-moving flames.

The order does not apply to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest because it is not included in the Pacific Southwest Region, the USDA said in a press release.

Certain individuals, like those with a special forest service permit or eligible land owners/lessees, are exempt from the order.

Below is a list of individuals exempt from the national forest shut down:

Dr. Chris Dicus, a Professor of Wildland Fire and Fuels Management at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, spoke to FOX 11 following the announcement. 

"It wasn't surprising to me at all, but as a person that recreates frequently at the national forests, I was disappointed on a personal basis. We've simply been overwhelmed this year across California and the western U.S because past land management decisions and with the drought we've been experiencing and we've seen this all over the state so I totally understand the thinking going through there, but so many fires are started by lightning too that is not being accounted for," said Dicus. 

Dicus said the dry conditions are contributing to the destructive wildfires this year. 

"Everything is so dry now so it's the things that would be perfect to start the kindling of a campfire, this is what we're seeing right now," he said. 

Dr. Dicus said there are things we could do to help prevent the issue further. 

"Something that we could do a better job of in my opinion is mitigating that risk. It's managing our wildlands in such a way that's going to be resilient to wildfires and so many places we've been hands-off and that has to change if we want to fix what's happening in California," said Dicus.  

Caltrans has already started closing some of the routes connected to the parks, like the 2 Freeway at Big Pine and at Angeles Forest Highway. SR-39 will also close at Gateway Center, in addition to the 138 Freeway at Old ridge Route in the Gorman area. The Pyramid Lake entry off the 5 Freeway will also be off-limits.

Click here for more details on road closures.

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