SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The U.S. Forest Service has closed public access to all Forest lands across the state and on the Central Coast for two weeks out of public safety concern due to very high or extreme fire danger.
The announcement comes ahead of the long Labor Day holiday weekend when many planned camping, hiking and outdoor trips to backcountry areas in the Los Padres National Forest.
"It's so dry sir, it's so dry," said David Candelaria who lives along the Los Padres National Forest boundary in northern Santa Barbara County.
Candelaria welcomes the Forest Service public closure.
"I can water the plants all I want, I can water the trees all I want, but no matter what, this whole mountainside is dry and ready to be burned down to the ground."
His neighbors in the tinder dry Tepusquet Canyon area agree.
"Absolutely, for right now, yeah, we have to protect our homes", said Ronald and Nancy Cullen who also live in Tepusquet Canyon. "With the fire danger right now that's a good idea, we've got a lot of hot weather coming and with the winds blowing, a little spark will set it off. It will be terrible if that would happen, even a spark from a passing car can set it off."
The Forest Service closure order includes nearly 1.8 million acres in the Los Padres National Forest that stretch across five counties.
Battalion Chief Jim Clayton with the Santa Maria City Fire Department recently returned from battling the stubborn Dixie Fire in northern California that has destroyed hundreds of homes and has so far scorched more than 800,000 acres.
"When the wind, the fuels and the topography are all lined up it's incredible what the fire behavior is doing out there." Clayton said. "The fire is spotting a mile to two miles ahead of itself, there's not a lot that we can do."
Public notices of the U.S. Forest Service closure order have been posted at trailheads and campground sites in the Los Padres National Forest and the information is posted on the Los Padres National Forest website.
Violators of the Forest Service closure order face fines of up to $5,000.
On Wednesday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it has closed 33 properties that lie within or immediately adjacent to U.S. Forest Service boundaries. These properties are closed to the public through Friday, Sept. 17 effective immediately due to extreme fire risk.