Forest Service officials confirm all California national forests to temporarily close

Smoke and ash hang over Highway 50
Heavy smoke from the Caldor fire hangs over Highway 50 near South Lake Tahoe last week.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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All of California’s national forests will be closed beginning late Tuesday.

The closures will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and stay in place until the same time on Sept. 17, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region.

“We do not take this decision lightly, but this is the best choice for public safety,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien. “It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests.”

The order doesn’t affect the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is not in the Pacific Southwest Region, officials said.


Officials said they hope to reduce the number of people visiting national forests to prevent anyone from being trapped during an emergency such as a wildfire.

Having fewer people on national forest lands also decreases the likelihood of new fires starting and will help keep firefighters and the community safer by limiting possible COVID-19 exposure, officials said.

While California has seen massive wildfires, forestry officials said they worry about the “record level” conditions for fires and dry fuels, fires behaving “beyond the norm” of experience, “significantly limited” resources to fight fires, and no predicted relief from weather conditions into the late fall, according to Monday’s announcement.

Thousands rushed to leave South Lake Tahoe as the resort city came under an evacuation order due to the Caldor fire.

Sept. 2, 2021

“More than 6,800 wildfires have burned 1.7 million acres across all jurisdictions in California, and the National Wildfire Preparedness Level ... has been at PL5 since July 14, 2021, only the third time in the past 20 years that the nation has reached PL5 by mid-July — indicating the highest level of wildland fire activity,” officials said.

Monday’s announcement comes weeks after the Forest Service closed nine national forests in Northern California.