Temporary National Forest Closure Extended past Original Sept 14th Date to the 21st of September.
VALLEJO, Calif., September 15, 2020 – UPDATE on National Forest Closures in California .
Regional Order No. 20-11 prohibiting building, maintaining, attending or
using a fire, campfire, or stove fire, or smoking on National Forest System lands under my
jurisdiction. This order will be in effect from September 15, 2020, at 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time,
through September 21, 2020. This Regional Order will protect natural resources and provide for
the safety of forest visitors by further mitigating wildfire ignition potential during these extreme
Regional Emergency Closures—Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q) Is there an imminent threat of fire, are we in immediate danger?
A) No, this is a preemptive and precautionary action. We are attempting to mitigate risks associated with heightened wildfire threat. Fire conditions and extreme weather forecasts have elevated the risks of wildfire across the state. We are instituting these closure orders in an attempt to a) mitigate additional wildfire starts and b) provide for public safety should fires start and burn quickly under such extreme conditions.
Q) Where can I go to a National Forest?
A) Currently all National Forests in the Pacific Southwest Region are closed to the public by order. There are few exceptions to these orders for contract work and for access to private property.
Q) How long will these orders be in place?
A) These are temporary emergency closures. Orders will end on September 21 unless rescinded sooner or extended. We will be assessing the situation daily to make this determination.
Q) Which “developed recreation sites” are closed? Does this include private or concession operated sites?
A) All developed recreation sites that are managed by the Forest Service or private sites operated under special use permit are all closed with some local exceptions. Developed recreation sites included in the order are campgrounds, resorts, day use sites, boat launches, and ski areas.
Q) If I have a reservation that is cancelled, will I get a refund?
A) Yes, you will be notified through the recreation.gov system of your cancellations and a full refund will be processed. It may take several days for the refund to appear in accounts.
Q) What happens to those that refuse to leave when asked?
A) The closure orders provide for the lawful enforcement of closures and the USDA Forest Service’s law enforcement division may intervene.
Q) Are organizational camps and recreational residences part of the closures?
A) These are not explicitly part of the closure orders. You may remain on premises for maintenance of property unless directed to evacuate.
Q) Will special use permittees be compensated for their losses?
A) Because it is an emergency closure to provide for public safety and resource protection, the there is no compensation for loss of revenue.
Q) Can utility companies and other operations not related to public use and recreation continue under these closures?
A) Yes, utility operation and maintenance, along with contract vegetation management and timber work may continue as exemptions to these closures. Provided that the work activity is within acceptable P.A.L. levels and within the scope of the fire plan.
Q) Can I drive to my forest residence?
A) Forest closures prohibit using roads and trails within the forest. Consider remaining at your primary residence to reduce the impact if evacuations become active.
Q) Do I need to evacuate my residence?
A) The local county sheriff is usually the lead agency for evacuations and will generally be the coordinating organization. You may want to check your local news and websites to find if there are evacuation orders or warnings. If you are at your recreation residence, you should consider returning home to avoid an emergency evacuation warning or order.
Q) Where can I go for a day hike? Are trails still open?
A) All Forest areas in the region are currently closed to the public, including trails.
Q) If I have a permit to be on Mt. Whitney, is that permit still valid?
A) No, the Mt. Whitney area is temporarily closed to the public.
Q) Is this an evacuation because it sounds like it?
A) No, this is not an evacuation, it is a closure. This means that it is prohibited to enter onto Forest System lands, with few exceptions. People are being asked to leave the Forests in an orderly manner until which time the closures are lifted.
Q) My loved one is hiking the PCT and I can’t get ahold of them. Will a ranger track them down and give them the information? Can I call the ranger station and ask them to find my loved one?
A) Because this is not an evacuation, rangers will notify those they find hiking the trail of the forest closure and recommend they promptly leave the forest, but they will not be searching for visitors in order to ask them to leave.
Q) I’ve tried calling the ranger station multiple times and no one is answering, how can I get ahold of them?
A) All of the regional front desks are operating in a virtual environment. Like the unprecedented number of visitors to the forest, we are also getting an unprecedented number of calls. If you do not directly connect with a front desk clerk, it is likely they are helping another guest. Leave your name and call-back number and they will respond to you as quickly as possible. You can also find the forest email address in the Contact Us section. It is often easier to direct your question via email and the forest representative will reply as soon as possible.
Q) Are you closing the forest because of air quality?
A) The Regional Forester made the difficult decision to close all national forests in California due to the unprecedented fire danger. The numerous fires burning in California and the risk of new fires will continued to be critical for several more months. Air quality is directly related to the amount of smoke in the air and prevailing winds. Currently the many of our national forests and their surrounding communities are experiencing periods of unhealthy air quality. Before traveling to the forest, visitors are encouraged to check on any active fires in the area at inciweb.nwcg.gov for federal fire incidents, or https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/ for any CalFire incidents. In addition, due to the many active fires you may find very smoky conditions across the forest, so we recommend you check the local air quality at airnow.gov.
Q) We are using a smoker without an open flame; can we use still use it?
A) As long as the regional fire restrictions prohibit all ignition sources on California’s national forests, smokers are prohibited. To read about the regional fire restrictions visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/r5
California is experiencing an unprecedented and dire fire season. There are 18 National Forests
in California, totaling approximately 20 million acres. Currently, 13 of 18 National Forests in
the Pacific Southwest Region in California have large fires. Nearly all fires are now large,
“complex” fires (a series of fires in close proximity to one another that have burned into a single
large unit). In a typical fire season, California will see some 300,000 acres burn. This year,
more than 3 million acres have already burned statewide.
To date in 2020, 1,148 wildfires have burned 839,677 acres of National Forest System lands in
the Pacific Southwest Region. Currently, there are 19 uncontained large wildfires in Northern
California with 25 new fires reported. In Southern California, there are eight uncontained large
wildfires with 19 new fires reported.
In Northern California, to-date this year there have been 593 wildfires burning 642,234 acres on
National Forest System lands. Large fire potential will remain heightened in the northern area
through the weekend. There is a high risk for fire activity on Sunday and Monday along and east
of the Crest including the Modoc Plateau due to gusty southwest winds, low relative humidity
and very dry fuels. There will be high fire risk conditions Sunday through Monday in the
northern Sierra Nevada, northeastern and far eastern portion of the state due to gusty southwest
winds coupled with low relative humidity. Dead fuel moisture will remain unusually low. Live
shrub and canopy fuel moisture are at critically dry thresholds across low and mid elevation
areas and will continue to lower across the highest elevations. Fires on National Forests in
Northern California: Slater/Devil on the Klamath NF, Fork on the Eldorado NF, North Complex
on the Plumas NF, August Complex on the Mendocino/Six Rivers/Shasta-Trinity National
Forests, Red Salmon Complex on the Six Rivers NF,
In Southern California, to-date this year there have been 555 wildfires burning 197,443 acres on
National Forest System lands. Light to moderate initial attack activity is expected through the
middle of next week as humidity will continue to be low with poor recoveries other than along
the immediate coast. Despite generally light winds, the fire threat will be moderate through the
middle of next week due to the low humidity, warm temperatures, and overly dry fuels
conditions. Extreme fire behavior and dangerous rates of spread are possible at any time of day.
Looking ahead, the potential for extreme fire activity will be likely to continue until enough
precipitation occurs to significantly increase fuel moisture. Fires on National Forests in Southern
California: Creek on the Sierra NF, El Dorado on the San Bernardino NF, Bobcat on the Angeles
NF, Dolan on the Los Padres NF, SQF Complex on the Sequoia NF, Valley on the Cleveland
Extreme weather conditions have made this situation significantly worse this year. Record high
temperatures, unprecedented dry lightning events, and multiple heatwaves across the state have
made conditions extremely dry and susceptible to fire ignition. Temperatures have reached over
100 degrees for most of the state several weeks running, even in areas along the coast that are
typically cooler. In addition to the heat and high temperatures, significant wind events have
occurred fueling blazes out of control. This week major wind events are forecasted for northern
and southern California. The combination of record heat and wind are recipe for significant fire
danger and potential disaster.
Nationally, and within California, firefighting resources are operating at maximum capacity and
there are significant shortages of resources. Our firefighting organization has been in
Preparedness Level 5 (PL5), the highest level of fire response preparedness, for several weeks.
Nationally, there are no Type 1 Incident Management Teams available and only two Type 2
teams available. All fire engines and major firefighting equipment are already assigned to
existing fires or positioned to prevent new fire starts from escaping initial attack. This scarcity
of resources has caused the agency to seek assistance from the U.S. Army as well as other
countries including Canada, Mexico, and Australia. This situation means that should additional
fires break, the agency may not be able to respond in a timely manner, further risking life and
National Forests in California have seen record numbers of visitors this summer. Reports
indicate that use levels normally associated with peak holidays such as Memorial Day and the
4th of July are being seen every day throughout the summer. This has held true this Labor Day
weekend as well. Campgrounds and dispersed use areas are reported as full to capacity and
overflowing. Parking lots spill over into roadways. Conflicts between use groups are up,
including criminal activity. And trash and human waste are collecting faster than staffs are able
to clear and clean facilities. These visitor use levels and related management issues further
exacerbate a challenging fire situation creating a heightened level of risk.
The potential for new fires to start and burn uncontrollably is extremely high right now. The
combination of extreme fire conditions and weather, along with significant shortages in
firefighting resources, poses a significant threat to communities and the visiting public. As 95%
of all wildfires are human caused, it is prudent to take every precaution to prevent additional fire
starts during this unprecedented fire season.
This Regional Order includes an exemption for persons with a Forest Permit for Use of Roads,
Trails, or Areas Restricted by Regulation or Order (Form FS-7700-48). Authorization under this exemption will only be provided if I or my delegate determine that the risk to personal health and
safety is reasonable considering the circumstances of the request. We may also require
appropriate personal protective equipment and other necessary safety measures. I hereby
delegate the authority to sign Form FS-7700-48 granting an exemption to this Regional Order to
all Forest Supervisors in the Pacific Southwest Region.
I have concluded that this decision may be categorically excluded from documentation in an
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA) under the National
Environmental Policy Act. This action falls within the category identified in 36 CFR 220.6(d)
(1) – prohibitions to provide short-term resource protection or to protect public health and safety
– and does not require documentation in a decision memo, decision notice, or record of decision.
I have determined that there are no extraordinary circumstances associated with this temporary
closure. Implementation of the decision may begin immediately after I issue this Order.
Regional Forester Pacific Southwest Region