Most National Forests in California to Reopen
More firefighters and the end of summer tourist season were among the reasons the U.S. Forest Service cited in announcing the reopenings.
California will reopen many of its national forests, but fire threats remain.
Tahoe National Forest is one of California’s national forests that will reopen on Wednesday.Credit…Tiffany Brown Anderson for The New York Times
Sept. 15, 2021, 10:43 a.m. ET
In a sign of improving weather and fire conditions in much of California, all but five of the state’s 20 national forests will reopen late Wednesday after they were closed to all visitors for 15 days.
The forests are set to reopen at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, two days earlier than planned, the Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement. Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said “some factors are more favorable now.”
“We are constantly evaluating weather and fire conditions in California, as well as regional and national firefighting resources available to us so that we can ensure the safety of the public and our firefighters,” she said.
Over the past two weeks, including the long Labor Day weekend, hiking, picnicking and camping on Forest Service land — which includes parts of the popular Pacific Coast Trail — were banned. The Pacific Coast Trail Association had advised hikers to leave the trail in late August.
More than 7,000 wildfires have consumed over two million acres in California this year. The largest, the Dixie fire in Northern California, has burned nearly one million acres in the past two months and is 75 percent contained, according to a New York Times wildfire tracker. Several other fires in the state remain active.
The Colony, Paradise and Windy fires were ignited last week by lightning and are threatening sequoia groves containing some of the oldest and biggest trees in the world. Residents in three nearby areas were ordered to evacuate, and others were warned that evacuations could become necessary.
Though most forests will reopen, the Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland National Forests in Southern California will remain closed for at least another week. Others in the state, including Eldorado National Forest in Northern California, will remain closed under local orders.
The Forest Service said those closures would be extended “due to local weather and fire factors, as well as a temporary strain on firefighting resources supporting large fires in other areas of the state.”
Officials cited several reasons for the early opening, including reduced fire risk in the rest of the country making more firefighters available, the changing seasons, and the passing of peak summer visitation.
But the Forest Service cautioned that fire restrictions remain in place in all of the state’s national forests, and that favorable fire conditions remain in several areas of the state.