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Cooler temperatures lift blanket ban on campfires east of I-5

Courtesy photo | Rain fell over the Rough Patch Complex and Jack fire area Sept. 27, 2021.

A new month brought cooler temperatures and eased fire restrictions in some parts of the state, as fire managers concentrated resources on landscape repair operations across major wildfire areas.

Management of the Cougar Peak fire (91,795 acres, 85% contained) is slated to return to local fire units Tuesday, with the planned departure of Northwest Incident Management Team 12. Firefighters continued suppression repair work, perimeter patrol and hazardous tree falling through the weekend.

“Warm temperatures and low humidity led to visible smoke from the interiors of the Cougar Peak and Patton Meadow Fires [Saturday], but containment lines on both fires continue to remain secure,” according to the Sunday update.

As of Sunday afternoon, firefighters repaired more than 100 miles of fire line and 36 miles of road around the Cougar Peak fire, according to the incident Facebook page.

Crews are constructing water bars — shallow diagonal channels across roads and fire lines — to mitigate erosion in the area by diverting water and sediment away from streams and into woody debris and other vegetative filters to settle out.

The Fremont-Winema National Forest is under “high” fire danger and Level II industrial fire precaution as of Friday.

At the Rough Patch Complex (50,409 acres, 71% contained) and Jack fire (24,165 acres, 83% contained), firefighters removed hazardous trees, logs and slash from the fire area to protect roadways and waterways as part of ongoing wildfire suppression repair work.

“Today, we will see the warmest and driest day of the week,” the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team said Sunday.

The rest of the week was forecast to bring clouds and scattered showers over the fire area.

The Oregon Department of Forestry on Friday lifted a blanket ban on campfires in state managed forests and parks east of Interstate 5. Individual parks may maintain restrictions per local fire danger.

Fire season ended Friday at 1 a.m. in the ODF Northwest Oregon District, due to recent rain decreasing fire danger and autumn bringing shorter days. In all other districts, fire season remains in effect.

The final daily update for the Devil’s Knob Complex was issued Friday, pending any severe changes in conditions. Now 58% contained, the complex has burned 70,110 acres, including fires in patrol status. Within the complex, the Big Hamlin fire was fully contained and the Smith fire was 42% contained at 49,239 acres Friday.

Sierra Front Team 1, a Type 3 incident management team from the Great Basin, took command of the scene at 6 p.m. Friday.

“With increasing containment, recent precipitation and temperatures returning to seasonable norms, fire behavior is expected to remain minimal and firefighters will continue working on suppression repair until wet and muddy conditions prevent them from safely completing the work,” according to the Friday morning incident update.

Fire managers with the new team will focus on directing suppression repair work to fire lines at greatest risk of soil erosion under winter and spring precipitation.

The Umpqua National Forest removed all public use fire restrictions Sept. 29 and dropped the industrial fire precaution level to 1 the following day.

Gov. Kate Brown ordered flags at public institutions be flown at half staff from sunrise to sunset Sunday in recognition of National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 102 on-duty firefighter deaths have been reported thus far in 2021.

Among those honored Sunday, GE Forestry squad boss Frumencio Ruiz Carapia, 56, of Central Point, died Aug. 23 after being struck by a falling tree while fighting the Gales fire near Eugene.