A list of recent wildfires in California, with counties and acres affected. Forest fires listed here are the ones that have affected public lands – like National Forests, National Parks, State Parks and BLM land.
On public lands you may see signs like –
Warning: Entering a Burned Area Potential Hazards include:
FALLING TREES + LIMBS
>>> Entering a CLOSED FOREST with burn scar is a crime and can result in jail time. Check USFS forests web site for current closures.
Forest Fires listed below are alphabetical. Green links to more data.
2020 was a year of many “Complex Fires” inside California. These names were given to a grouping of multiple forest fires caused by lightning strikes, during dry thunderstorm events in mid August. The coastal Santa Cruz redwoods were on fire; then shortly after the Sierra Nevada started burning fast, and campers were rescued by helicopter. We started loosing Giant Sequoia trees at an alarming rate – starting this year.
We used to have such a beautiful, lush and diverse forest in the Northern Sierra Nevada, but all that has changed with recent wildfires that have scorched millions of acres of National Forest land in the past few years.
An unbelievable amount of destruction has taken place with losses in wildlife, forest ecosystems, personal property, and human lives, as well as buildings of historic value.
Sadly, I find my California landscape photographs are now mere documentation of what beauty once was.
Twenty five years ago, when I began this outdoor web site for California, did I ever imagine ‘times like these’ – where we would be held up inside our homes during summer, as annual wildfires destroyed our vast and beautiful forests. Frightened to breathe the toxic, smokey air outside. Saddened by news of yet another town or historic structure burning to the ground. Checking the destruction daily online, in hopes of more containment, fresh photos or any good report.
Now I fear Total Escape may become photographic documentation of how beautiful California once was.
Most California National Forest are currently closed!
Lassen Volcanic National Park is CLOSED due to damages from the Dixie Fire.
In case you missed it: 2020 was the worst year for wildland fires in California history, but 2021 is shaping up to be just as bad. Many forests, roads, trails, campgrounds and parks listed below have been closed to the public for the 2021 season, and possibly longer.
BIG SUR COAST Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP
SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS Big Basin Redwoods SP
Butano Redwoods SP
Boulder Creek, CA
Expect that campfire rules will be tighter in the future, overall. Campfires will likely be restricted to ‘only inside developed campgrounds’. Or only allowed during the wet season on the backroads or in the backcountry.
*Unfortunately, this is not a complete list of all the closures inside California parks and forests. I am adding more to this list, as more places burn. This page is a work in progress for autumn 2021
Little Hot Springs Valley (within the National Park boundary) is also not fit for public use either. Although it may be appealing as a sightseeing destination, (accessible by dirt road) it is far from soaking quality.
Hot Springs Creek flows south into Mill Creek
DixieFire 2021 ravaged California’s Volcanic National Park. Morgan Mountain lightning strike fire merged with the monster fire to the east. NPS fire crews and CalFire lit a back fire near the Visitors Center on Hwy 89 – to burn and meet the bigger oncoming fire. Winds from the north forced the giant wildfire from the peaks and down hill to Mill Creek and Child Meadows, where firefighters were able to control the leading edge of the fire.
the only real hot springs worth visiting around Lassen National Park
rumors have it that the resort may still be standing – after the fire!
Built in 1900, this historic, rustic mountain meadow resort is accessible by dirt road through Warner Valley – north of Chester, CA. They have a swimming pool, naturally heated by the local hot springs. Plus rental horses, hiking trailheads and a developed campground nearby.
JULY 2021 – Drakesbad is CLOSED due to wildfire Dixie Fire
California has many different National Forest districts and each region has their own fire restrictions. State Parks & BLM also manages recreation areas & camping in the Golden State. Each agency & region has different rules, so blanket answers cannot apply to general questions on campfires.
Campfire permits are required for fires outside of designated recreation sites. During fire restrictions, campfires could be banned. Campfire Permit are available from Forest Service, CalFire or BLM offices or online, http://www.preventwildfireca.org/
the new abnormal
California suffers more from wildfires now than ever before. Native tribes let lightning strike wild fires burn and they did not suppress wildfire. Residential development creeping ever higher and denser into the foothills, an abundance of roadways, with the overgrown forest make fire danger ever more real.
Closed off wilderness areas, impassable dirt roads, landslides, fallen trees everywhere. Utility services (power lines), plus high winds and overgrown forest also play a huge part in the current wildfire catastrophes. Drought conditions or record winter rains, the huge population on the west coast -along with many other factors – means more fire danger. Educate yourself and others on fire safety, forests and weather patterns. Heed the wind, while in the wild. Wind spreads fire easily!
By mid summer we have usually have several wild land fires burning, which means campfire restrictions are usually in place before JULY 4th weekend. When this happens – No open campfires are allowed in the backcountry or on the back roads.
Often in the driest of years, no campfires are allowed (even inside the campgrounds).
If you love to primitive camp outside of developed campgrounds, you need to plan more road trips for spring time & autumn. Or head further north, well above Redding – where the forest are moist and snow graces Mount Shasta year round. Or perhaps, go desert camping during winter months. Checking the National Forest web sites can be confusing and their online information could be outdated.
Each forest and area is individually managed. No concise, easy-to-read list or online map exist on which forests are allowing backcountry campfires – and which ones are not. Conditions seem to change so often and they aren’t great about updating those .gov web sites. Best to call a local ranger station and ask about any current fire restrictions. You know, actually “talk on a phone” to a USFS, BLM or CalFire official. If you can speak to a field ranger, they can tell you more on dispersed camping. Or you can navigate the USDA web site to find current ALERTS & RESTRICTIONS. Cryptic lingo may be encountered, and many clicks maybe needed; possibly forcing you to download a PDF of current fire rules.
The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the night supplier, the outdoor LIVING ROOM. The campfire is the center stage for all entertainment, dining, drinking, music, true tales and ghost stories alike.
Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at dark. This nightly ritual is built into us on the deepest level. We miss this today. We miss the real conversations, the community, the bonding, the stories, the soul searching. We miss the connection with nature, the fresh air and the great outdoors. The night sky filled with stars and maybe a meteor shower, a hot drink and the glow of the campfire coals. Enjoying the wilderness requires certain skills. FIRE is only ONE skill – for survival, for cooking, for warmth, for safety.
Total Escape is dedicated to those who yearn to camp, often.
Some folks cannot imagine camping without a campfire, but we better get used to it here on the West Coast. Weather patterns swing from years of super-dry drought to deluge and drenching – as we’ve seen of recent in California. Dry conditions means high wildfire dangers, tight camp stove and strict campfire restrictions.
Each California region, National Forests and State Parks have their own fire restrictions, so call ahead to rangers for current fire conditions on the place you wish to visit. Certain mountain locations will ban fires in the back country, fires on the back roads and sometimes in extreme conditions, no fires allowed even inside a developed campground.
California is well known for its unforgiving drought conditions and its seasonal wildfire danger. Always know the fire conditions in the area you plan to camp. Most Southern California regions have banned ‘open campfires’ in forested areas, due to wildfire threat and population density. Call ahead to get an update on road closures and current campfire restrictions. Find California BLM offices & NFS ranger stations
If you plan on camping outside of a developed campground, you will need to get a free “camp fire permit”, which can be obtained at the local rangers office.
Developed Campgrounds offer sturdy, permanent, metal campfire pits. Many have adjustable grills built in.Primitive Camping is allowed in National Forests throughout California. Campfire permits are required. This style of camping is more peaceful and secluded, without neighbors, without fees and without amenities (no table, no fire ring, no toilet)
California Fire Lookouts for Rent
US Forest Service Cabins
Rent a secluded cabin with an amazing view, a historic tower for wildfire spotting, or a USFS guard station – hidden deep inside USDA California National Forests. Several of these NFS lookouts have been closed recently, so the ones listed below have links to status and reservation information.
Dirt road access is common to reach these remote locations. Some require stair climbing, or steep access hikes. Winter months are usually snowy, inaccessible and sometimes dangerous for these high country locations. Access roads suffer from closures due to rock slides or landslides. Check with the locals ranger station for current conditions.
A few of these rentals are open all year long – in the southern part of the golden state.
NorCal – Klamath River: 2017 fire season provided significant firefighting challenges. In order to meet future challenges in the most effective way possible, the NFS will continue to use prescribed burning as a tool in our mission to reduce build-up of hazardous fuels, restore forest ecosystems, and improve resiliency and safety of communities within the wild-land urban interface.
Planned projects include burning piles of stacked materials and low to moderate intensity understory burns of vegetation on the forest floor. The main goals of these projects are to reduce the severity of future wildfires and provide added protection for communities in the wild-land urban interface. In addition, the burns will promote a diverse and more resilient forest, and improve habitat for wildlife.
NorCal River Camping, Fishing, Kayaking, Rafting, Recreation.
Klamath burns will take place on the Salmon River, Scott River, Happy Camp, Oak Knoll and Goosenest Ranger Districts between April and June 2018. The actual dates of ignition will depend on local weather and fuel conditions.
Open car camping is allowed in several places inside Cleveland National Forest, although NO campfires are permitted in the backcountry (trailside or dirt roads) – due to the high fire danger. Your best for FREE, open, dispersed camping (with a campfire) is Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Lower elevations w/ summertime temperature can get very hot, so plan for higher elevation camps. The more you explore, the more you can find.