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Closure of National Forests in California extended

Campground at Stampede Reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest closed Sept. 8,2020
Campground at Stampede Reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest closed Sept. 8,2020(Ed Pearce)
Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 7:03 PM PDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2020 at 9:00 AM PDT
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TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST, Ca. (KOLO) - UPDATE SEPT. 15, 8:50 A.M. The U.S. Forest Service has extended the closure of all U.S. Forests in California until September 21st due to the continued high fire danger.

The order affects all roads, trails and lands with the national forests.

UPDATE SEPT. 9, 12 P.M. The U.S. Forest Service has expanded its closure order, meaning all 18 National Forests in California will be closed at 5pm Wednesday, September 9th until further notice.

The order also includes the Nevada side of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

The order is the result of the explosive fire conditions across all of California. The U.S. Forest Service says the decision will be re-evaluated daily as conditions change.

ORIGINAL STORY: Up and down the Sierra, it’s the same. Campgrounds which a day ago had hosted scores of people are empty, locked up. Boat ramps closed.

Except for an occasional cyclist, the road between Boca and Stampede Reservoirs--part of the Tahoe National Forest--is empty.

That has been a rare sight this year.

“I think folks are looking for an escape and who can blame them? They’ve been stuck in their houses looking for things to do. Folks have really connected to these places in a big way," says Jonathan Cook-Fisher, District Ranger for the Truckee District of the Tahoe National Forest. "So yes, we’ve had over 800-thousand acres of National Forest burn this summer, but use levels have also been as high as we’ve ever seen.”>

So clearly, all that activity has caused it’s share of problems. Hundreds of illegal campfires in the Tahoe National Forest alone, literally an every day occurrence, more than 30 of them requiring a full fire suppression response.

And, as we were talking, word came of yet another one a few miles from where we were standing.

It was quickly extinguished and will be investigated, but on a day like this it was clearly man-caused, likely another illegal campfire at a site known for what’s called dispersed camping--that is outside established campgrounds.

Meanwhile on the horizon, dozens of miles distant, a huge smoke column was rising from the North Complex Fire reminding us what can happen when wind meets fire in the Sierra forests.

It’s that thought and the example of all the fires burning up and down the state that prompted the US Forest Service to temporarily close a number of National Forests. Those in our area, Lassen, Plumas, El Dorado and Tahoe are open for day use only but overnight camping is banned in developed campgrounds and the forest at large except in wilderness areas and within 500 feet of the Pacific Coast Trail. No campfires, even camp stoves.

“So we’re really concerned that with having a lot of people in the woods and over the next three to five days conditions continuing to worsen we need to play it safe and that’s why these restrictions are in place.”

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