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All Of California's National Forests Closed Or Restricted Amid Record Heat And Wildfires

A firefighter douses flames during the Creek fire in Sierra National Forest (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)
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With all the wildfires and extreme heat, and with Santa Ana winds on the way, all of California's national forests are being shut down temporarily or seeing increased restrictions.

The U.S. Forest Service announced the closures Monday, along with additional prohibitions, as two new wildfires broke out in Southern California, threatening homes in San Bernardino County and critical instruments and transmitters up at Mt. Wilson Observatory.

The national forest closures include:

  • Stanislaus
  • Sierra
  • Sequoia
  • Inyo
  • Los Padres
  • Angeles
  • San Bernardino
  • Cleveland

All other national forest lands in the state are now subject to the following restrictions:

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  • Prohibition of all ignition sources (campfires, gas stoves, etc.)
  • All campgrounds and day-use sites closed
“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously," said Randy Moore, Regional Forester for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, in a written statement.
"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. 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."

This is the first time going back decades that so many forests have been closed at the same time.

The San Bernardino National Forest was closed in October 2007 during two wind-driven fires. In 2003, during the Old Fire in the mountains above San Bernardino all the way out to Big Bear, the forests were closed and all residents were cleared out, some 25,000 people forced off the mountain.

The move is a precaution as Santa Ana winds are expected to come blasting through the mountains in the next few days, making the brush even drier and more flammable.

In addition, many firefighters are already working other fires in really brutal conditions. They say they’ve been seeing what they call extreme fire behavior – fire that moves really fast, with embers flying far ahead of the main fire line and expanding the footprint of the fire.

The Forest Service says its firefighters and equipment are also stretched to the limit. Their firefighters – and many from the other agencies that come in to help – have been out in 110 or higher temperatures in some places.

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The measures go into effect at 5 p.m. Monday and will be re-evaluated daily, according to the forest service.

Some of the areas were actually already closed. The river-adjacent playgrounds along the west fork of the San Gabriel River were evacuated yesterday when the Bobcat Fire broke out. If you’ve ever been up there on a hot day, you know it’s an extremely popular place to sit in the shade of the trees that grow right on the river bank.

Forest Service spokesman Jonathan Groveman says they are not closing the roads through all those forests. The thousands of people who live in vacation cabins and year-round homes in those areas will not be forced to leave.

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