Hiking trails expected to close due to dry conditions and fire hazards

RIVERSIDE - To minimize the chances of a wildfire, the Board of Supervisors today is expected to authorize Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins to close access to seven hiking and off-road locations.

Since 2007, Hawkins has sought and received authorization to close the grounds -- located mainly in the central and southwest portions of the county -- for the duration of Southern California's fire season, generally June to November.

Hawkins is asking that the closures begin immediately "because of the potential of damaging human-caused fires,'' according to a fire department statement.

Dry conditions raise the risk of wildfires, and fighting them would be challenging given the sites' terrain and remoteness, according to agency officials.

The following locations would fall under the county's closure order:
   -- Avery Canyon, along Gibbel Road, east of State Street in southeast
   -- Indian Canyon and North Mountain in San Jacinto;
   -- Minto Way in Sage, north of Aguanga;
   -- Nuevo, east of Menifee Road and San Jacinto Avenue;
   -- Ramona Bowl and Bautista Canyon in southeast Hemet;
   -- Reinhardt Canyon, north of state Route 74 and California Avenue in
Hemet; and
   -- Whitewater Canyon in Cabazon.

By reducing foot and 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. People who reside in or near the locations would be permitted to come and go as they please.

The closures are usually lifted at year's end, though they can be rescinded prior to that if winter rains come early.

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