Angeles National Forest officials Wednesday announced that the ongoing forest-wide emergency closure order for the Angeles, Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests has been extended until midnight on Sept. 22.
Although the regional order issued on Aug. 31 that closed public access to all national forests in California through Sept. 17 will be rescinded Wednesday evening at midnight, Southern California forests will remain closed, officials said.
“Due to ongoing high fire danger and active wildfires across the West, the Southern California national forests will remain closed for another week to better provide for public and firefighter safety,” forest service officials said.
“Moreover, conditions on the forest have prompted Angeles forest fire managers to increase the fire danger level from Extreme to Critical,” officials added.
The increase in the fire danger will require restricting access to the national forest for non-essential activities.
“Through this order we hope to minimize the likelihood that visitors could become entrapped during an emergency and decrease the potential for new fire starts at a time of extremely limited firefighting resources,” the statement said.
Severe and persistent drought due to hot and dry weather led to rapid growth and increasingly unpredictable fire behavior across Northern California this summer, with no relief expected until late fall.
Meanwhile, Southern California remains in drought conditions and the National Interagency Fire Center predicts that “above-normal significant fire potential” will continue across the region into October as very dry conditions are expected to continue along with the start of the Santa Ana wind season.
“Once our resources return from fighting Northern California fires, we’ll be able to re-evaluate fire danger conditions for reopening the forest,” said Robert Garcia, the Angeles National Forest fire chief.
Currently, there are 11 large uncontained fires burning on National Forest System lands statewide, and more than 15,000 personnel, 303 crews, and 1,113 engines are committed to fighting fires in California.
The new closure order is intended to reduce the likelihood of a new fire starting over the next week.