Supervisors close recreational sites for duration of fire season

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The Board of Supervisors today authorized Riverside County fire Chief John Hawkins to close access to seven hiking and off-road sites where fire danger is high in the summer months.

In a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Jeff Stone absent, the board without comment gave its nod for Hawkins to continue a policy he began in 2007.

Since that time, the fire chief has 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 from June to November.

Like last year, Hawkins asked that the closures begin this month "because of the potential of dangerous fires in these areas," 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 fire officials. Already this year, two brush fires scorched thousands of acres near one of the sites.

The following locations fall under the county's closure order:

      -- Avery Canyon, along Gibbel Road, east of State Street in southeast Hemet;
      -- 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;
      -- Whitewater Canyon in Cabazon.

By minimizing foot and vehicle traffic, the chances of a wildfire starting in the locations are much slimmer, according to the fire department.

Closure signs will be posted at entry points to warn potential violators of fines and other penalties. People who reside in or near the locations will be permitted to come and go as they please.

The closures likely will be lifted in November.

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