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Post-fire restrictions remain in place for national forest 

The Los Padres National Forest lifted its emergency closure order on Nov. 8, but the long-term effects of this summer's Zaca fire will keep parts of the forest closed to the public through April 2008.

Restrictions on forest use will remain in place until high fire season ends, a date no one can project.

The emergency closure declared on Oct. 23 was based on a shortage of resources that had been diverted to the devastating Southern California fires. The closure had remained in place because of the fear that continuing Santa Ana winds might cause more fires.

That immediate threat is over, but the devastation caused closer to home by this summer's Zaca fire, which burned more than 240,000 acres, has left many areas of Los Padres National Forest scorched to the ground.

"Even without precipitation, people have found trails that slipped out from under them. There are still areas that are unstable," said Los Padres spokesperson Joe Pasinato.

Because of that instability, most of the San Rafael Wilderness and all of the Dick Smith Wilderness area in Santa Barbara County and some surrounding lands will remain closed through April 2008.

Additionally, parts of Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County affected by the Ranch fire will remain closed until further notice due to residual fires still burning in those areas.

The forest service has also closed national forest lands east of Piru Lake and Piru Creek in the Angeles National Forest through November 2008 because of resource concerns.

Meanwhile, Los Padres National Forest reports that high fire season is not over yet, Pasinato said.

"High season generally ends when we get 2 inches of rain in the forest," Pasinato said.

However, other factors such as high temperatures can keep high fire season restrictions in place, regardless of rainfall, he said.

"We can look back historically and see that some of the more severe wildland fires actually have been in the winter months," Pasinato said. "We would really like folks to be vigilant all year round."

During this high fire season, the forest is continuing its ban on all wood and charcoal fires in the forest, including designated campfire use sites. Portable stoves and lanterns are allowed only in designated campfire use sites, and only with a valid California Campfire Permit.

Smoking is prohibited in all areas of the forest except within enclosed vehicles, buildings or designated campfire use sites.

Recreational target shooting is prohibited in all areas of the forest except the Winchester Gun Club in Santa Barbara County and the Ojai Valley Gun Club in Ventura County. Hunting with a valid state license is exempt from this restriction, the forest service reported.

Off-vehicle use is banned year-round.

For more information, visit the Los Padres National Forest website at www.fs.fed.us/r5/lospadres.

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