U.S. Forest Service closes all 18 California national forests due to wildfire risks

By Colby Bermel 09/09/2020 06:11 PM EDT

All 18 national forests in California will be closed starting at 5 p.m. PT, the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday.

Impact: The announcement came as catastrophic wildfires continue to burn in national forests and state parks in California, with the destruction totaling 2.5 million scorched acres, 3,700 destroyed buildings and eight deaths, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The national forests under the agency’s jurisdiction span some 20 million acres across California. Monday’s actions included the prohibition of campfires and gas stoves on all Forest Service land in California, along with the closure of campgrounds and day-use sites.

Background: The Forest Service on Monday closed eight of California’s 18 national forests as conflagrations continued in and around some of those areas. That included the explosive Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest northeast of Fresno, which ignited Friday but has since burned 163,000 acres and is now the third-largest active blaze in the state.

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new partnership with the Forest Service to reduce fire risk throughout the state.

Details: As the Creek Fire and other fires continued, the Forest Service on Wednesday announced the shuttering of California’s 10 remaining national forests. “The number of large fires and extreme fire behavior we are seeing across the State is historic,” USFS regional forester Randy Moore said in a statement.

“These temporary closures are necessary to protect the public and our firefighters, and we will keep them in place until conditions improve and we are confident that National Forest visitors can recreate safely,” he added.

What’s next: The Forest Service said it would conduct daily reevaluations of the closures as conditions change.

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