Regional Emergency Closures—Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q) Is there an imminent threat of fire, are we in immediate danger?
A) No, this is a preemptive and precautionary action. We are attempting to mitigate risks associated with heightened wildfire threat. Fire conditions and extreme weather forecasts have elevated the risks of wildfire across the state. We are instituting these closure orders in an attempt to a) mitigate additional wildfire starts and b) provide for public safety should fires start and burn quickly under such extreme conditions.

Q) Where can I go to a National Forest?
A) Currently all National Forests in the Pacific Southwest Region are closed to the public by order. There are few exceptions to these orders for contract work and for access to private property.

Q) How long will these orders be in place?
A) These are temporary emergency closures. We will be assessing the situation daily to make this determination.

Q) Which “developed recreation sites” are closed? Does this include private or concession operated sites?
A) All developed recreation sites that are managed by the Forest Service or private sites operated under special use permit are all closed with some local exceptions. Developed recreation sites included in the order are campgrounds, resorts, day use sites, boat launches, and ski areas.

Q) If I have a reservation that is cancelled, will I get a refund?
A) Yes, you will be notified through the recreation.gov system of your cancellations and a full refund will be processed. It may take several days for the refund to appear in accounts.

Q) What happens to those that refuse to leave when asked?
A) The closure orders provide for the lawful enforcement of closures and the USDA Forest Service’s law enforcement division may intervene.

Q) Are organizational camps and recreational residences part of the closures?
A) These are not explicitly part of the closure orders. You may remain on premises for maintenance of property unless directed to evacuate.

Q) Will special use permittees be compensated for their losses?
A) Because it is an emergency closure to provide for public safety and resource protection, the there is no compensation for loss of revenue.

Q) Can utility companies and other operations not related to public use and recreation continue under these closures?
A) Yes, utility operation and maintenance, along with contract vegetation management and timber work may continue as exemptions to these closures. Provided that the work activity is within acceptable P.A.L. levels and within the scope of the fire plan.

Q) Can I drive to my forest residence?
A) Forest closures prohibit using roads and trails within the forest. Consider remaining at your primary residence to reduce the impact if evacuations become active.

Q) Do I need to evacuate my residence?
A) The local county sheriff is usually the lead agency for evacuations and will generally be the coordinating organization. You may want to check your local news and websites to find if there are evacuation orders or warnings. If you are at your recreation residence, you should consider returning home to avoid an emergency evacuation warning or order.

Q) Where can I go for a day hike? Are trails still open?
A) All Forest areas in the region are currently closed to the public, including trails.

Q) If I have a permit to be on Mt. Whitney, is that permit still valid?
A) No, the Mt. Whitney area is temporarily closed to the public.

Q) Is this an evacuation because it sounds like it?
A) No, this is not an evacuation, it is a closure. This means that it is prohibited to enter onto Forest System lands, with few exceptions. People are being asked to leave the Forests in an orderly manner until which time the closures are lifted.

Q) My loved one is hiking the PCT and I can’t get ahold of them. Will a ranger track them down and give them the information? Can I call the ranger station and ask them to find my loved one?
A) Because this is not an evacuation, rangers will notify those they find hiking the trail of the forest closure and recommend they promptly leave the forest, but they will not be searching for visitors in order to ask them to leave.

Q) I’ve tried calling the ranger station multiple times and no one is answering, how can I get ahold of them?
A) All of the regional front desks are operating in a virtual environment. Like the unprecedented number of visitors to the forest, we are also getting an unprecedented number of calls. If you do not directly connect with a front desk clerk, it is likely they are helping another guest. Leave your name and call-back number and they will respond to you as quickly as possible. You can also find the forest email address in the Contact Us section. It is often easier to direct your question via email and the forest representative will reply as soon as possible.

Q) Are you closing the forest because of air quality?
A) The Regional Forester made the difficult decision to close all national forests in California due to the unprecedented fire danger. The numerous fires burning in California and the risk of new fires will continued to be critical for several more months. Air quality is directly related to the amount of smoke in the air and prevailing winds. Currently the many of our national forests and their surrounding communities are experiencing periods of unhealthy air quality. Before traveling to the forest, visitors are encouraged to check on any active fires in the area at inciweb.nwcg.gov for federal fire incidents, or https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/ for any CalFire incidents. In addition, due to the many active fires you may find very smoky conditions across the forest, so we recommend you check the local air quality at airnow.gov.

Q) We are using a smoker without an open flame; can we use still use it?
A) As long as the regional fire restrictions prohibit all ignition sources on California’s national forests, smokers are prohibited. To read about the regional fire restrictions visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/r5

Q) Is there anywhere I can currently go hunting on a National Forest?
A) Currently no, all Forests in the Pacific Southwest Region are currently closed due to the severe fire situation. These closures were put in place to protect the public and our employees.

Q) Forest Service closure orders include an exemption for “Persons with a Forest Service non-special-use written authorization to conduct non-recreational activities, such as harvesting timber or forest products, or grazing livestock.” Does this exemption apply to hunting?
A) No, this exemption does not apply to hunting. Hunting is considered and managed as a recreational public use of Forests. All Forests are currently closed to protect the public and our employees due to the unprecedented fire season and the additional risks associated with extreme fire weather and fast-moving fire conditions throughout the state.

Q) I have a hunting license and tag, will I be able to use it?
A) Yes, opportunities to hunt and utilize tags may alternatively be available on non-Forest Service lands. Additionally, we are assessing the fire situation and closure decision on a daily basis in order to make a determination to retain the Forest closures or remove them. It is possible, depending on fire behavior and weather, the closures may be lifted before hunting season concludes.

Q) Are generators permitted?
A) Visitors considering using generators while camping are asked to abide by the following requirements:

  • Generators are allowed in open developed campgrounds and dispersed areas, as long as campers follow posted quiet hours. A list of open campgrounds can be found on the web page.
  • All generators must be fitted with appropriate, functional spark arrestors.
  • Generators are NOT allowed in any wilderness area due to prohibition of motorized/mechanized items.


Public Inquiry line

Public Inquiry Line: (707) 562-9113

 



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