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THE REGION

U.S. to Close Most of the Cleveland Forest Friday

October 10, 2002|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Because of the continuing fire hazard from the driest season in history, most of the Cleveland National Forest will be closed Friday until the onset of substantial rains, the U.S. Forest Service said.

It was the third Southern California forest closure in two weeks, which combined will cut off or severely restrict access to more than 2 million acres of mountainous timber and brush lands between Ventura County and the Mexican border.

"Fires this summer have burned with such intensity that they are almost impossible to control," Anne Fege, the Cleveland forest supervisor, said Wednesday. "Fuel moisture is at historic record lows. We must do whatever possible to prevent additional large fires."

She said state and county roads through the forest will remain open to through traffic, but areas on both sides of the roads will be closed. Recreation will be allowed in developed areas, but remote campgrounds will be closed and campfires will be prohibited everywhere in the forest. Hunting will be restricted to the Agua Tibia Wilderness and Forest Service lands adjacent to Indian Flats.

The closure does not apply to private lands within the boundaries of the Cleveland forest.

Last week, officials closed vast stretches of the San Bernardino National Forest, including the timbered areas surrounding such popular recreation communities as Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead and Idyllwild. Most roads remained open, but campfires, hiking, horseback riding and off-road vehicle use were prohibited.

More severe restrictions were imposed a week earlier in the Angeles National Forest, where a stubborn wildfire destroyed more than 70 buildings and blackened more than 35,000 acres above Glendora and San Dimas in late September. The entire 656,000-acre forest was closed to all recreational uses.

Officials said the Angeles is the most heavily used national forest in the nation, with about 3.5 million visitors annually.

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