Members of the public curious to see the severity of damage by last summer’s Zaca Fire to Los Padres National Forest will get their first chance on Friday, forest officials announced today. The areas will open at noon for the first time since July 2007. However, a statement from Los Padres also noted that the fire damage is still bad enough that potential looky-loos have urged to use extreme caution when traveling through.
“A great deal of [erosion] occurred immediately after the fire, and the winter rains and heavy snowfall caused additional damage,” said Forest Supervisor Peggy Hernandez in a written statement. Among the most badly damaged trails are segments of the Manzana Narrows, the Santa Cruz trail and the Grapevine and Potrero trails in the San Rafael Wilderness. Forest officials note that among the more common fire-caused problems are gullies, potential landslides and rockslides, burned trees and tree limbs that can fall without warning, and missing trail signs. In all, the Zaca Fire-which was sparked into existence on July 4 and smoldered on until it was fully controlled on October 29-burnt an estimated 167 miles of trail. Forest Service Backcountry Manager Kerry Kellogg said that the badly affected areas would likely continue to be dangerous for years, until plants grow back and help stabilize loose ground.
The Forest Service has also noted that though area may now be passable for skilled hikers, equestrians are discouraged from entering yet.