About 178,000 acres of open land in Orange County will be closed to the public beginning Monday to reduce the risk of wildfires, the Orange County Fire Authority said Friday in announcing the start of fire season.
"We anticipate a very challenging summer," said Capt. Scott Brown, Fire Authority spokesman.
Brush remains thick after El Nino rains in 1997-98, and as the summer progresses the grasses and scrub will dry and become a fire hazard, he said. Although 90-day forecasts call for cooler-than-normal temperatures into July, the hillsides will still dry out, Brown said.
The closed areas include open land:
* North of Brea.
* South of the Riverside Freeway and west of the Cleveland National Forest.
* South of Bonita Canyon and Interstate 405 to Laguna Canyon Road and the Newport Beach city line.
* East of Laguna Canyon Road to the Wood Canyons Regional Park and the Laguna Beach city limits.
Brown said anyone found responsible for starting a fire, even by accident, in the closed areas could be held liable for firefighting costs.