National forests temporarily close as fires in Southern California emerge


Throughout the past month, wildfires emerged from Glendora Ridge and Sunset Peak, two of the many trails that are located near Mt. Baldy, which wreaked danger for the hundreds of residents living near these areas. Compared to 2020’s fires, this year’s fires are a definite improvement; however, though the fires have been fewer in number, the amount of acres burned have been a devastation for the whole state. As of now, many national forests have been ordered to temporarily shut down, and many residents have been ordered to be evacuated from the area of the fires.

Graham Hendrickson is one of the many firefighters working at the Mt. Baldy Fire Department and trying to cease future fires following the devastation of the Dixie Fire. (Dixie Fire, currently the state’s largest fire so far, burning over 859,457 acres of forestry land.)

“The forest is closed due to many wildfires burning in Northern California and the amount of resources that have been dedicated to them,” Hendrickson said. “The closure helps to prevent the possibility of new fires starting in other locations, and then straining fire resources even more.”

Many residents in the area were affected by the fires, one of the most important results being poor air quality. A fellow senior at CHS, Casey Shoultz, lives near where the forest fires originated in Mt. Baldy.

“The fire was a mile and a half away from my house. At first smoke was everywhere around my house and there was a chance we had to evacuate,” Shoultz said.

On August 3rd at two o’clock in the afternoon, a vehicle caught fire on a Mt. Baldy trail, specifically Sunset Peak Trail. Eventually, that fire spread to a bush, making the fire grow at an alarming rate until it was deemed an extreme fire, the second most dangerous level on the Forest Service scale. After three hours of attempting to stop the fire, it had spread 50 acres more with absolutely no containment. Almost two weeks later, the San Bernardino County Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department had managed to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading any further. Though the National Forests were originally planned to be open on September 17th at 11:59 p.m., as of Tuesday September 14th, the San Bernardino National Forest officials have put out a notice that all National Forests will be temporarily closed until September 22nd at midnight. This extra week of closure has been ordered to ensure the safety of the public as well as the firefighters continuing to fight the Antonio fires.

Although the Baldy trails and many other mountain ranges in Southern California have been closed temporarily due to the fires, many hikers continue to visit the trails.

“Even though the forestry is closed, people are still coming up to the mountains even though there’s barricades,” Shoultz said. “There’s more cause for a fire because of people coming up to the mountains to hike or go for a drive.”

Since the Antonio fire was mainly caused by a vehicle fire, there are many concerns as to whether or not fires will arise again due to multiple people hiking on the trails. The Antonio Fire, a 50 acre brush fire occurring in Sunset Peak and Glendora Ridge Rd., was a brutal fire that had lasted 2 weeks. The likelihood of the fires’ recurrence has made the San Bernardino National Forest Organization extend the closure.

“People that travel into the forest during the closure should follow the rules posted by the USFS,” Hendrickson said. “Those include staying out of all recreational areas. No hiking, playing in the stream, traveling on closed roadways, or parking in turnouts. There are no open fires or BBQ’s allowed, even in campgrounds.”

All personnel at the National Forests and the Fire Departments are ensuring that people follow the USFS guidelines to reduce the likelihood of a new fire emerging over the next weeks, with further updates still to come.