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A fiery shutdown

Hunting and other activities have been curtailed by blazes.

October 28, 2003|J. Michael Kennedy | Times Staff Writer

Authorities detained a lost hunter Saturday, alleging that he started a forest fire that has burned more than 100,000 acres in eastern San Diego County. The devastation there and elsewhere in Southern California is effectively shutting down hunting season and most other recreational activities in the region's forests and parks.

The entire San Bernardino National Forest remained closed to the public Monday as firefighters worked to contain the blaze that has engulfed thousands of acres. Road closures included Highway 18 from San Bernardino to Running Springs as well as Highway 173 to Lake Arrowhead. (For a more comprehensive list of recreation-related road closures, see the Access Report on Page 11.)

"Most people were cooperative when we went around to clear them out," said forest spokeswoman Ruth Wenstrom. But she added that some were confused about being asked to leave areas under no immediate threat, including the mountain enclave Idyllwild.

At the Angeles National Forest, Supt. Jody Cook said officials would decide the scope of closures, if any, late Monday. While the fires have not had a major effect on the Angeles Forest, spokesman Stanton Florea said an announcement would be forthcoming about fire-restriction rules in an effort to curtail more fires in the mountains.

A portion of the Los Padres National Forest has been closed because of a fire that began at Lake Piru in Ventura County and has been steadily burning into the steep terrain.

"We're advising people that the smoke has carried a long distance and that they should take into consideration what the quality of their forest experience might be," said Los Padres spokeswoman Joanna Guttman. "And we're asking people to please be very, very careful."

Lora Lowes, a Cleveland National Forest spokeswoman, said the entire area had been closed, adding that although deer season began several days ago, hunters would not be allowed in the forest.

"The rangers go up and close all the gates," she said. "Deer season just opened but they can't go in there."

Because of the fire threat, all state parks were closed Monday in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Trail use was being discouraged. A spokesman for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said cyclists may be turned back. And the California Department of Fish and Game canceled its scheduled trout plants in San Bernardino County.

Even if fire were not an imminent threat, authorities advised people Monday to skip exercise outdoors because of the thick layer of smoke stretching from the desert to ocean.

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