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Crews make progress on South Obenchain, Thielsen fires

Firefighters assigned to the South Obenchain fire have been able to push 50 to 150 feet into the fire’s interior during mop up, aided by cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels

“The mop-up objectives are going exactly like they planned,” said fire public information officer Don Hickman. “They’re getting good spacing in a couple of the areas.”

The latest progress bumped containment on the fire to 35% Thursday night. The 32,833-acre blaze, which ignited about five miles east of Eagle Point Sept. 8, hasn’t grown since Thursday. The fireline along the eastern flank seemed to be holding Friday, too.

“It got tested a little bit (Thursday), but everything held,” Hickman said. “They put resources on that, and they’ve got a really, really good handle on it.”

Increased visibility has allowed a more consistent stream of firefighting helicopters in the air. A Level 3 evacuation notice issued for homes along parts of Indian Creek near Shady Cove was lowered to Level 2. An updated evacuation map for all of Jackson County is available at jacksoncounty.org/evacuation.

By Friday, the fire had destroyed 32 homes and 56 other structures such as outbuildings and barns.

A chance of rain was in the forecast Friday for much of the area, though the expected amounts weren’t significant.

“The coastal range is proving to be a formidable force for moisture getting in here,” fire incident meteorologist Todd Carter said.

After the system moves through over the weekend, the region’s weather will shift back to a more seasonal pattern, with high temperatures across Jackson County ranging from the mid 70s to mid 80s.

In other fire news, the Thielsen fire burning 5 miles north of Crater Lake National Park and within 1 mile of Diamond Lake Resort was at 9,995 acres Friday with 15% containment.The fire began Sept. 8, in the tree line near the Pacific Crest Trail within the Diamond Lake Ranger District, and the east wind event caused the fire to run northwest and jump Highway 138.Level 3 “GO” evacuations are in place for the Diamond Lake, Lemolo Lake and Toketee Ranger Station areas.

On Friday, firefighters planned to focus on direct attack where possible, as well as protecting critical infrastructure and securing and holding the fire’s southern edge near the northern boundary of Diamond Lake, according to a fire update from Umpqua National Forest.

Crews will also secure and mop up along containment lines, secure the Cinnamon Butte communications tower, and improve structure defense around the tower. Air operations will drop retardant to protect the Cinnamon Butte Lookout as weather conditions allow.

Firefighters planned to use heavy equipment to create lines around the fire and will conduct firing operations when fire behavior and weather permits, the update said.

Highway 138E is closed. For the latest road conditions, see www.tripcheck.com.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.

Inciweb photo of South Obenchain fire.