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Sunday weather brings risk, opportunity on South Obenchain fire

Wind and warming temperatures today could fan extreme fire behavior on the South Obenchain fire, but the wind could also thin out thick smoke that has grounded air operations over the wildfire in northern Jackson County, fire managers said in a Sunday 9 a.m. update.

The 30,503-acre fire is 20% contained, fire managers said.

For the safety of firefighters and aircraft, flying over the fire area is currently banned except for firefighting operations. The ban includes flying of aerial drones by the public.

Any thinning of smoke would also come as a relief to Jackson County residents who have been socked in for days by choking, acrid smoke that is rated as hazardous by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The Bureau of Land Management has a closed BLM land to the public in and around the South Obenchain fire to reduce conflicts with emergency crews, allow for fire suppression and protect the public and natural resources.

All of Jackson County is under a Level 1 "Be Ready" evacuation alert. The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning about gusty winds from the west and northwest that can fan existing fires and speed the growth of any new fires that break out.

In northern Jackson County, the areas around and including Shady Cove and Butte Falls remain under a Level 3 "Go" evacuation alert because of the South Obenchain fire. The "Go" alert extends north to Lost Creek Lake, west of Shady Cove to the west, east of Butte Falls to the east and just south of Highway 140 to the south.

The whole perimeter of the South Obenchain fire is under a Level 2 "Be Set" evacuation alert, including the areas north and west of Eagle Point.

Portions of Phoenix and Talent remain under a mix of Level 1 "Go" and Level 2 "Be Set" evacuation alerts from the Almeda Fire that tore through the heart of those cities starting on Tuesday. Conditions remain dangerous with downed power lines, natural gas leaks and hazardous trees.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office is allowing residents back into Level 2 "Be Set" zones in Talent and Phoenix.

To view detailed evacuation zones in Jackson County, see jacksoncounty.org/evacuation.

On the South Obenchain fire, crews on the southwestern and northern flanks continue to reinforce dozer containment lines and perform mop-up operations, according to the Sunday morning report from fire managers.

Crews on the east and southeast flanks were able to complete a combination of dozer and hand lines. They continue to reinforce the perimeter.

Firefighters will continue to secure the line while remaining vigilant and watching for spotting over the next several days.

Four task forces of structural engines are working along the Butte Falls Highway and in the Shady Cove area to triage threats and provide point protection. Tactical burnout operations were conducted last night to secure homes along the perimeter.

Resources on the fire include 15 crews of ground firefighters, three light helicopters, five medium helicopters, four heavy helicopters, 22 engines, 19 dozers and 28 water tenders.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

A map showing the extent of the South Obenchain fire on Sunday.
South Obenchain fire evacuation zones including Shady Cove and Butte Falls in red Level 3 "Go" zone and perimeter of area in yellow "Be Set" zone. The footprint of the fire is in orange and is covered by the "Go" evacuation alert.