Cucamonga Canyon closed as fire prevention measure

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (AP) — San Bernardino National Forest officials have taken the unusual step of closing a popular natural area as a way to prevent wildfires.

The Los Angeles Times says that for the first time in decades, Cucamonga Canyon has been shut down for the duration of wildfire season, which typically runs through fall.

During a recent survey, forest officials found evidence of more than 70 illegal campfires in the flats below the canyon’s falls. With the exceptionally dry conditions in the area, officials say one errant ember could spark a conflagration.

Hikers who defy the closure notices risk a $5,000 fine and six months in prison.

Ranger John Miller calls it the “most extreme fire-prevention tool” available. And officials say they’re weighing closing several other wilderness areas to public access.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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