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RivCo fire chief seeks to close access to popular hiking sites for wildfire season


The Board of Supervisors is slated Tuesday to authorize Riverside County Fire Department Chief Bill Weiser to close access to multiple outdoor recreational locations for the duration of the Southern California Wildfire Season to minimize public safety risks.   

Since 2007, the department has sought and received authorization to close designated grounds -- located mainly in the central and southwest portions of the county -- typically from June to November.

Weiser is asking for this year's closures to take effect on June 1.   

"Due to the potential for large damaging human-caused fires, the county fire chief has determined these areas should be closed, except on public roadways and on inhabited areas of private property within the closure areas,'' according to a county fire statement. "The potential for large damaging fires
... this year may be enhanced by the extreme vegetation growth experienced throughout Riverside County."  

Wildflower and other blooms have saturated and covered previously open trails, especially in the western half of the county.   

Wildfires in any of the locations due for closure would be difficult to manage, given their terrain and remoteness, officials said.   

The following sites would fall under the county's closure order:
   -- Bautista Canyon, southeast of Hemet;
   -- Eagle Canyon, between Lake Mathews and the county landfill, just north of Cajalco Road;
   -- Indian Canyon and North Mountain, around San Jacinto;
   -- the Ramona Bowl, south of Hemet;
   -- Steel Peek, northwest of Meadowbrook, due west of Good Hope and south of Gavilan Hills; and
   -- Whitewater Canyon, near Cabazon.

Officials pointed out the Ramona Bowl would remain accessible between sunrise and noon daily, with the area off-limits any other time of day.   

By reducing foot and off-road vehicle traffic in each location, the chances of a wildfire starting are much slimmer, according to the fire department.

Closure signs would be posted at entry points to warn potential violators of fines and other penalties. First offenses usually result in a minimum $100 ticket.

Residents would be permitted to come and go as they please.   

The closures are usually lifted at year's end but can be rescinded before then by the chief, depending on the timing of winter rains.

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