Wildfires in California have forced the closure of nine National Forests according to officials in the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region office. Portions of the Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail have also been closed to users.
USFS Officials on Wednesday closed access to the Eldorado National Forest through Sept. 30.
The closure of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit followed on Thursday and includes additional backcountry and wilderness areas including Desolation Wilderness, Meiss Country, Barker Pass and McKinney/Rubicon, along with a number of roads leading into the backcountry. The LTMBU closures continue through Sept. 19.
The additional closures will be effective at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 22 through Sept. 6 and affect the following forests:
- Klamath National Forest
- Lassen National Forest
- Mendocino National Forest
- Modoc National Forest
- Plumas National Forest
- Shasta-Trinity National Forest
- Six Rivers National Forest
- Tahoe National Forest
Fines and imprisonment are possible for people who violate the order.
“Fires are running very quickly due to the drought conditions, dry fuels, and winds. This makes initial attack and containment very difficult and is even more challenging with strained resources who are battling more than 100 large fires across the country,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien. “We do not take this decision lightly and understand how this impacts people who enjoy recreating on the National Forests.”
Eberlien added that the closures intended to ensure public safety as well as that of firefighters working in the region, and to reduce the potential for new fire starts.
Trail organizations urge caution
Officials at the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, which manages the 165-mile trail around the rim of the Lake Tahoe Basin, said their trail was closed from just south of Barker Pass on the west side of Lake Tahoe to the Big Meadow Trailhead, located on Highway 89. They warned that additional closures may be announced, depending on fire activity.
“This may not be the last of basin forest and road closures. There have also been South Lake Tahoe city alerts that Highway 50 may close anywhere between Meyers to Placerville, California,” said Lindsey Schultz with the TRTA. “Please keep in mind that this highway closure would greatly impact evacuation routes for Tahoe residents. Please consider impacted evacuation routes if you currently have plans to recreate in portions of the basin that are not closed.”
The Pacific Crest Trail Association also issued a closure for portions of the PCT, which runs concurrent with the TRT from Meiss Meadow to just north of Barker Pass. The PCTA said its trail is closed from Blue Lakes Road to Tahoe City.
State on fire
The USFS reports more than 6,500 fires in California this year have burned more than 1.2 million acres.
The Caldor Fire southwest of Lake Tahoe in Eldorado County has reached more than 68,000 acres in size and is burning northeast toward the western edge of Desolation Wilderness. It has forced evacuations in dozens of areas and has proven difficult to contain due to steep terrain and heavy timber.
The Dixie Fire, at nearly 700,000 acres, is California’s largest single fire in history and has destroyed more than 1,200 structures including the town of Greenville. It’s burning in northern California on the Plumas National Forest, Lassen National Forest, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and in four counties: Butte, Lassen, Plumas, and Tehama.
Read the USFS’s full statement on the closures at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD945706.
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with 20 years’ experience working in communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. In her free time, she is a volunteer backpacking guide along the Tahoe Rim Trail, an avid home cook and baker, cyclist, wife and stepmom.