All trails, campgrounds and roads are affected, although front country trails present a special challenge

By Tom Bolton, Noozhawk Executive Editor 

The closure order for Los Padres National Forest that goes into effect at midnight Tuesday affects all trails, campgrounds and roads, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“The regional order closes the forest to public access,” Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen told Noozhawk. “There’s no real wiggle room around that.”

The Forest Service announced Monday that it was closing all 20 million acres of California’s national forests for two weeks due to extreme fire conditions and firefighting resources that have been strained by several large vegetation fires in the state.

People caught entering Forest Service lands — including developed campgrounds, hiking trails and recreation sites — typically face fines of up to $5,000 for violating closure orders.

Forest Service personnel were posting campgrounds, trailheads and other areas with signage about the closure, which is set to last until at least Sept. 17, Madsen said.

At the same time, concessionaires were closing down campgrounds.

Those with reservations and permits for camping and backcountry travel were being notified of the closure as well, he said.

The front-country trails along Santa Barbara County’s South Coast present a special challenge, Madsen said, because many of them start outside the forest and cross different jurisdictions — county or city.

“The boundaries are not really marked,” Madsen said, “and we don’t have the capacity to have someone up there.”

Officials hope the public heeds the closure order and uses extra caution in those backcountry areas that remain open.

Overall enforcement of the closure also presents a challenge, Madsen said, because the local forest areas are vast, with numerous access points.

“We can’t be everywhere,” Madsen said, noting that fire patrols already are out in the field.

“We hope folks will understand and abide by this order,” he added.

— Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at