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Crews start repairs on Worthington fire area

As wildland firefighters approach total containment on the Worthington fire near Eagle Point, they’re embarking on a new step in the fire-suppression process: repairing the landscape.

During the initial stage of active firefighting, a key part of containing the flames comes at the hands of firefighters and the blades of bulldozers, with both digging lines to stop the fire’s spread. That changes this week, fire public information officer Joel Brumm said, with portions of the 17.1 miles worth of fire line scheduled to be folded back in to the landscape.

“When we reach this stage of the fire, they go in and will repair those lines,” Brumm said, adding that crews will focus on the interior and secondary lines, primary lines staying in place until sometime in October. “They will come back and put some of those lines to bed.”

On Monday, the 761-acre lightning fire was considered 90% contained. It ignited July 30, and put on an initial ferocious surge through a mix of private and Bureau of Land Management lands.

A strong air attack from six helicopters dropping water and airplanes releasing retardant helped to slow the fire, allowing crews to dig lines around the perimeter of the blaze and box it in by Aug. 3.

On Monday, 253 personnel remained on the front lines, including seven hand crews, four dozers, four water tenders and three fire engines. Now fire suppression is shifting to landscape restoration.

“We want to restore the drainage so we’re not getting these new muddy little streams in the wet season, so the water will flow naturally across the landscape. Basically just doing what we can to restore it to the condition it was before.”

BLM crews are working with resource advisors such as geologists and archaeologists to protect natural and cultural resources during restoration work. The advisors are also gathering information for possible future restoration, including reseeding projects.

Removal of all firefighting equipment, hoses and litter is part of the restoration process. Vehicles and other motorized equipment will be cleaned, a process intended to remove noxious weed seeds so they aren’t spread to other natural areas.

Fire danger remains at “extreme” on the 1.8 million acres of lands in Jackson and Josephine counties protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

High temperatures for much of the Rogue Valley this week are expected to reach the low to high 90s, according to the National Weather Service.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Firefighters work knocking out the Worthington fire outside of Eagle Point .