Every Single National Forest in California Just Closed Due to Wildfire Risk

Wildfires have devoured 1.8 million acres of California forest this year alone

All National Forests In California Closed Due To Fire Threat
David McNew / Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Services temporarily closed all of California’s national forests on Aug. 31, 2021, at 11:59 p.m., citing extreme wildfire risk.

"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.” 

When Eberlien says the decision wasn’t made lightly, she’s not joking. The California wildfire situation is dire, and already this year, more than 6,900 wildfires have devoured 1.8 million acres of California forest land. Back in mid-July, the National Wildfire Preparedness Level (PL) reached PL5, the highest level of wildland fire activity—only the third time in 20 years that PL5 has been declared by mid-July.

The decision to temporarily close the forests until Sept. 17 was based on several factors, including visitor safety, current conditions that make it easier for fires to spread quickly, and forecasts showing continued or worsening high-risk fire trends.

Although large fires and risk to people and property is, unfortunately, nothing new these days, the USDA Forest Service says that this year's circumstances are a bit more severe. For starters, the agency stated a record-level of fuel and fire conditions and "fire behavior that is beyond the norm" of their experience and models, such as "large, quick runs in the night." They also noted a lack of attack and suppression resources and limited Incident Command Teams needed to battle new blazes.

In 2020, there were estimated to be 9,917 total wildfires in California that burned through 4.25 million acres. It was a record-setting year. By temporarily closing and restricting access to the Golden State’s national forests, the U.S. The Department of Agriculture Forest Service is also hoping to prevent any new fires from starting. 

The closed national forests are expected to reopen on Sept. 18, 2021.

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  1. United States Department of Agriculture. "USDA Forest Service Temporarily Closing All California National Forests for Public Safety." Aug. 31, 2021

  2. 2020 Fire Season. Cal Fire, State of California