California Closing National Parks Through Mid-September
In the wake of a statewide wildfire crisis, the U.S. Forest Service announced yesterday in a press release that it is temporarily closing national parks throughout California from just before midnight tonight through September 17 for safety reasons.
The Forest Service hopes to minimize the likelihood that visitors become trapped in a park during emergency circumstances and decrease the potential for new fires to start, especially as firefighting resources are extremely limited.
More than 6,800 wildfires have burned 1.7 million acres across the state, and the National Wildfire Preparedness Level (PL) has been at PL5 — the highest level of wild land fire activity — since July 14, according to the news release said.
This marks the third time in the past 20 years that a PL5 reading has been achieved by mid-July.
Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said, "We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety. It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests."
California is currently experiencing record-level fuel and fire conditions, fire behavior beyond the norm of the Forest Service's experience and models, and limited firefighting resources and teams, with no predicted weather relief until late fall.
A violation of these closures may result in a maximum fine of $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, imprisonment for six months, or both, according to the Forest Service's regional order.