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Public lands near South Obenchain fire reopen

Public lands near the South Obenchain fire burn area that were closed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management during firefighting operations have reopened.

Wildland crews fought the fire, which ignited near Eagle Point, from Sept. 8 to Oct. 3, when they achieved full containment on the blaze. Crews spent nearly two weeks afterward repairing the landscape that had been damaged during suppression. Work included folding dozer lines back into the ground, hazard tree removal along roadways and travel corridors, roadway damage assessments, and making sure culverts are operational.

“The idea is to get the landscape looking like it did before the fire, at least when it comes to the suppression,” said Kyle Sullivan, BLM spokesman. “We’re not going to be able to clear up the burn area.”

The closure, which affected about 51,550 acres of land around the fire area, went into effect Sept. 12, Sullivan said. BLM lands are still at “moderate” fire danger level, and some public lands use restrictions are still in effect. Campfires, or any other type of open fire, including use of charcoal briquettes, are prohibited, as is the use of fireworks. Stoves that use bottled fuel are allowed.

Smoking is allowed only inside a vehicle or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is clear of flammable vegetation. Use of chainsaws or other equipment with internal combustion engines is prohibited between 1 and 8 p.m. A fire watch of at least one hour is required following chainsaw use. Visitors to BLM lands are also required to carry tools that can aid in putting out small fires quickly, including a shovel, ax and at least one gallon of water or a 2.5-pound fire extinguisher.

BLM crews will now shift gears to a longer term process of restoring the landscape, or “emergency stabilization and rehabilitation.” It involves planting new trees, grasses and native plants to speed up the recovery process.

“We’re still pretty early on in that process,” Sullivan said.

Public land closures near the Slater fire, burning in Northern California and southern Josephine County, remain in effect, including lands south of Cave Junction and south of Highway 46 from Cave Junction east to the U.S. National Forest boundary.

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

The South Obenchain fire is shown burning. (Inciweb photo)