Sign at a campground in San Diego County. Courtesy Cleveland National Forest

The Cleveland National Forest will be closed ahead of Labor Day under an order issued Monday by the U.S. Forest Service that covered all but one of California’s national forests due to the state’s numerous wildfires.

The order closing all the forests in the Pacific Southwest Region will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and extends through Sept. 17. It is intended to help ensure the safety of the public and firefighters, according to Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien.

“We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,” Eberlien said. “It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests.”‘

By enacting the closures, the forest service seeks to minimize the likelihood of visitors becoming trapped in a national forest during a fire, decrease the potential for new fires to start and enhance firefighter and public safety by limiting exposure to COVID-19 that might occur during public evacuations.

“More than 6,800 wildfires have burned 1.7 million acres across all jurisdictions in California, and the National Wildfire Preparedness Level has been at PL5 since July 14, 2021, only the third time in the past 20 years that the nation has reached PL 5 by mid-July,” the forest service said in a statement.

The Cleveland National Forest encompasses 460,000 acres in San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties. A 1,500-acre wildfire is already burning in the forest on the San Diego-Riverside county line.

The only national forest in California not covered by the order is the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest which is not in the Pacific Southwest region.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.