Forest and fire update 24th September 2020

[The next update to the Trail Report is scheduled for Thursday 1st October, when the Forest and Park closures will either be lifted or extended.]

The closure of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, which began on Monday 7th September, has now been extended until at least 30th September (see revised closure order here).

Notices posted at trailheads such as Humber Park and Ernie Maxwell Trail were amended by hand on 22nd to simply say “extended, see website for details”. Apparently, “the closure will be reevaluated daily”. The Forest Service does have a relatively useful FAQs regarding the closure.

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in the closure.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

The Snow Fire was held initially at 6013 acres (see prior posting for discussion). On 22nd that acreage was revised up to 6254, apparently due to improved mapping, rather than additional burning. There has been no visible sign of smoke or smoldering for the past few days, and containment percentage increases every day. Given the enormous challenges with almost all the other fires in the region at this time, we are extremely fortunate that the Snow Fire was not ultimately many times larger, or more destructive. The principal formal trail impacted was the PCT. About eight miles were burned (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) although damage to the trail is limited due to the gentle gradient on this section and the relatively short, light chaparral in this area.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate about 1.7 miles up from Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. One unfortunate consequence of this action is that the Black Mountain Fire Lookout is also now closed, potentially for the season. Indeed all fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, apparently for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. This past weekend was the best air quality this month, but it has subsequently deteriorated again somewhat in the past couple of days (but remains better now than earlier in September).

WEATHER Although temperatures have cooled somewhat, overnight lows in particular remain above average. Temperatures well above seasonal are forecast to return for the last couple of days of September into the first few days of October (as discussed in the latest briefing from NWS San Diego).

The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 23rd (59.9°F) was the highest ever recorded at that location in the second half of September. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The prospects for the remainder of 2020, discussed in an earlier video from NWS San Diego, are not encouraging.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers.While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

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