Following a recent accident and damage to a road construction site, engineers on the Plumas National Forest are reminding area residents and visitors to not travel on closed roads and to use extreme caution driving on Forest roads, especially in areas affected by wildfire.
Last week a vehicle ended up stuck after driving on a closed road and dropping into an excavated section where the road is being repaired.
This was the second vehicle in recent days that drove through this road construction site, according to PNF Public Affairs Officer Tamara Schmidt. The first vehicle managed to successfully get out without assistance, but did substantial damage to the welded wire mat that had already been placed.
Early estimates from Forest engineers indicate that as much as $5,000 of damage was done to materials at the site as a result of this incident. Road construction operations also had to stop until the vehicle was removed and materials could be assessed and replaced.
“This occurred on a road that has a forest closure, a road closed sign, k-rail barricades, and boulders placed in the road, all of which these individuals had to drive around,” said Plumas National Forest engineer Jonathan Berry. “These roads are closed for public safety because of situations like this, where road repairs and reconstruction can involve removing segments of the road, or where equipment is operating and blocking the road, and there aren’t safe places to turn around.”
There were no reported injuries, but the car was left at the site by the driver and needed to be removed.
“The damage to the construction materials and impacts to the time of our contractors and employees in situations like this are expensive and further delay being able to open the road for everyone,” Berry said.
There are several road repair and construction projects across PNF this summer. If a road is signed as closed, it is not safe to enter and an alternate route should be used. Area residents and visitors also need to use extreme caution or avoid traveling on Forest roads in areas burned by wildfires in the past five years.
Weather, including wind and precipitation, can cause trees to fall across roads suddenly, blocking access or damaging vehicles. Heavy rains in these areas can also cause landslides, which can impact roads.
“We have had reports from contractors of trees falling and damaging vehicles while traveling to access projects,” Berry said. “There is extreme risk traveling on these roads and a possibility of being blocked in by fallen trees or affected by landslides. It should not be assumed that a road is passable, even if it doesn’t have a closure order.”
If they are choosing to travel in these areas, drivers are encouraged to slow down, watch for hazards and turn around or find a safe place if there is wind or rain in recently burned areas.
PNF also recommends drivers have a full tank of gas, plenty of water, food, layered clothing options, and other necessary supplies before traveling into the Forest. Additionally, they should tell someone where they are going, what roads they plan to take, and when they will be back in case there is a need to call for help. Cell service is not reliable and many places remain difficult to access for search and rescue.
“The Plumas National Forest is still a great place to visit and we are working to repair our roads to improve access,” Berry said. “Our local residents and Forest visitors can help that by respecting closed roads and giving us the space to get the work done safely and efficiently.”
The road closure orders are for public, contractor, and employee safety as assessments and work continues to repair and restore access to roads and recreation sites affected by wildfires.
Violations of these closure orders are punishable of a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment of not more than six months or both.
Information submitted by Plumas National Forest