More than 14,000 firefighters are battling 28 major fires in California, and to protect the public and fire crews, the U.S. Forest Service announced that as of Wednesday evening, all 18 national forests in the state are temporarily closed.
Regional Forester Randy Moore said in a statement the closures will remain in place "until conditions improve and we are confident that national forest visitors can recreate safely. I ask all Californians and visitors to take these closures and evacuations seriously for their own safety and to allow our firefighters to focus on the mission of safely suppressing these fires."
Some of the fires now burning are among the largest ever recorded in California. One blaze has scorched more than 250,000 acres around Oroville, and overnight, the North Complex fires in Plumas, Butte, and Yuba counties spread at a rate of 2,000 acres an hour, the Los Angeles Times reports. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea announced on Wednesday evening that three bodies were recovered in areas that were burned by the Bear fire.
In August, dozens of fires were triggered in Northern California by lightning strikes, and Jacob Welsh, public information officer for Pacific Northwest Team 2, told the Times that for "wildland firefighters, we've been in an all-hands-on-deck situation for weeks now. I've never seen anything like this in 20 years." There have been 7,657 fires reported statewide this year, burning more than 2.5 million acres — an increase of more than 2,000 percent over the number of acres burned at this time in 2019, the Times reports.