All national forests in the Pacific Southwest Region, including Los Padres in Santa Barbara County, are closed from Tuesday, August 31, at midnight through Friday, September 17. Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said, “We do not take this decision lightly, but this is the best choice for public safety.” She went on to acknowledge the hardship the closures will cause Labor Day vacationers, though the press release noted reducing the number of people in the forest would decrease the potential for fire starts as well as the potential need to rescue visitors.
About two dozen major wildfires are burning in California; the largest, the Dixie Fire at 807,000 acres, is nearly half contained, and the one just south of Lake Tahoe, the Caldor Fire at 191,000 acres, is 16 percent contained. The years of drought in California have created dangerous conditions of dry vegetation and dead trees, all of which are straining public firefighting resources among the Forest Service and its partners, the press release states. Outsize and new fire behaviors like “large, quick runs in the night” and no weather relief in sight added to the need to close the forest. Hot, dry temperatures remain in the 90s and 100s in California’s interior regions.
Significantly, fewer attack resources are available as wildfires are making runs in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado currently. Firefighters from throughout the state and country are fighting California’s wildfires through Mutual Aid agreements, including a good number of engine companies and other personnel from Santa Barbara County.
This fire year has seen 6,800 wildfires around California, accounting for 1.7 million acres burned. The National Wildfire Preparedness Level has been at its highest — PL5 — since July 14, the third time in the past 20 years it reached that level in mid-July.