While flames continue to destroy homes in Southern California, the Zaca Fire that burned throughout the summer in the Los Padres National Forest was officially declared controlled on Monday night.
Initially, Santa Barbara County firefighters contained the fire – which began on July 4 – on Sept. 2, by which time it had burned 240,207 acres of the Los Padres National Forest and other areas. While the fire was officially stopped from spreading in September, it was not completely declared extinguished until Monday night.
The Zaca Fire is the second-largest single wildfire in recorded California history, and cost $143 million total to extinguish.
Authorities reported that two Bell Canyon ranch employees allegedly started the fire when their grinding equipment malfunctioned. They are currently facing criminal charges.
The area burned in the Zaca Fire is expected to remain closed for at least a year until it is deemed safe for visitors.
Meanwhile, all of Los Padres National Forest is still closed to the public due to possible endangerment from the Southern California fires. According to a press release from Los Padres National Forest, the closure is temporary and will remain in place until conditions improve.
In a press release, Forest Supervisor Peggy Hernandez said the forest has received less than an inch of rain since the summer and is not safe for inhabitants.
“We are experiencing extremely dry conditions across the forest and another wind event is predicted for this coming weekend,” Hernandez said. “In addition, many of our firefighting resources are assisting with fires in Southern California, and while some resources have arrived from out of state to assist us, our ability to respond to new fires is affected. I know people are eager to get back into the forest, but their safety and the safety of Forest Service personnel must be my first priority.”
Although Los Padres National Forest will reopen when high fire season is officially over, the area burned in the Zaca Fire will not reopen until restoration processes are complete.