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South Obenchain Fire increases to 65% containment, 32,671 acres

Many evacuation orders have eased on the South Obenchain Fire over the past several days as growth of the fire began to slow. Containment also has increased by 10%. All perimeter areas of the fire have been downgraded to a level 2 evacuation order, including Butte Falls.

Posted: Sep 8, 2020 3:51 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2020 8:55 PM


UPDATE: As of 8 pm Sunday evening, the South Obenchain Fire is 65 percent contained and holding at 32,671 acres. It's the second day in a row of a 10 percent increase in fire containment.

All perimeters of the fire are in "mop-up and patrol status." In addition, repair groups are cleaning up dozer lines, fixing fences and other things damaged or moved during fire suppression tactics.

Crews will fly reconnaissance flights twice a day scouting for smoking areas and make sure they stay within the fire's perimeter. 

UPDATE- The Northwest Incident Management Team 8 says the South Obenchain Fire is now 55 percent contained and 32,671 acres. 

The incident team says areas inside the immediate burn area remain at a Level 3 "Go" evacuation with restricted entry. Areas outside of the immediate burn area are reduced to Level 2 "Be set." 

It also says visible flames and smoke will persist within the fire perimeter until a season-ending rain or snow event. Only call 911 if flames are actively spreading and life or property are threatened. 


UPDATE: Containment for the South Obenchain Fire has increased again, going from 35 percent containment to 45 percent. The fire remains at 32,833 acres burned. 

Fire crews say that cooler weather in the area today allowed firefighters to make more progress mopping up the south, north and western flanks while also reinforcing black lines.The cooler weather also pushed smoke out of the area, providing increased visibility and allowing air attacks to support the fire.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has also lowered all level 3 evacuation areas outside of the fire perimeter to a level 2 for residents only. Guards at road blocks will require proof of residency for entrance. A permit will be issued by the guards and will be required for re-entry. 

(Updated 9/19/20 at 9 a.m.)


UPDATE: Containment on the South Obenchain Fire increased for the second day in a row, moving from 25 percent containment to 35 percent, while the fire remains at 32,833 acres.

Fire crews say that cooler weather in the area today allowed firefighters to make progress mopping up the south, north and western flanks while also reinforcing black lines. On the eastern flank, crews were able to add an additional containment line, but the heavy smoke in the area halted air attacks on the fire.

Thunderstorms are still a possibility for tomorrow, so fire crews say that they will stay alert for those strikes and for increases in winds that could help spread the fire.

Jackson County Road Department crews continue to pick up hazards along the Butte Falls Highway and power to Butte Falls has been restored. Currently Butte Falls Highway is still closed past level 3 evacuations.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office along with fire managers from the South Obenchain fire decided to lower evacuation levels this evening from a level 3 to a level 2 in the Indian Creek area for people living outside of the fire's perimeter. The Northwest Incident Management Team wants to remind people living in that area, that fire fighting equipment will still be in the area and to remain vigilant while driving.

(Updated 9/18/20 at 12 a.m.)


UDPATE: Many evacuation orders have eased on the South Obenchain Fire over the past several days as growth of the fire began to slow, though Butte Falls remains on a Level 3. The fire is estimated at 32,833 acres and 25 percent contained.

Fire officials said on Thursday that the "forward progress of the fire has been stopped" as cooler weather persists. The most active area of the fire remains on the east, toward Butte Falls.

"The east flank of the fire remains most active and continues to burn in steep terrain and heavy timber," officials said. "Dozers assist firefighters in reinforcing direct lines on the eastern flank of the fire where possible."

On the south, west, and north flanks of the fire, crews have been reinforcing containment lines and mopping up hot spots. Once the smoke clears enough for aircraft, they will be used to help firefighters pinpoint those hot spots and respond appropriately.

Thunderstorms moving into the area on Thursday afternoon could revive strong winds, and fire officials say that crews are remaining vigilant for gusts that could spread embers beyond their lines.

"In cooler parts of the fire, fire suppression repair work will begin in preparation for fall and winter rains," officials said.

A task force from the Oregon State Fire Marshal's office is still patrolling along Butte Fall Highway and the town of Butte Falls, protecting structures in the area.

(Updated 9/17/20 at 4 p.m.)

UPDATE: Fire officials say that containment lines on the south and western flanks of the South Obenchain Fire have held up through several shifts as crews continue to work on strengthening those lines and mopping up within them.

As of Monday, the South Obenchain Fire was estimated at 32,031 acres and 20 percent contained.

Crews are also working to improve dozer and hand lines, along with some hazard tree removal, on the northern edge of the fire near Indian Creek as they transition into the mop-up phase.

“We have taken advantage of the weather and smoke cover to reduce loss of property and resources. I really want to thank everyone for their hard work to get us to this point," said Northwest Incident Management Team 8 Deputy Incident Commander Kevin Stock.

Fire officials said that the fire did make a "small push" to the east, into a burn scar from the 2008 Double Day Fire. Firefighters on the night shift worked to construct a primary lines, and more resources are being sent in the area to build up a containment line.

Four task forces of structural engines with the Oregon State Fire Marshal, are working along the Butte Falls Highway and in the Shady Cove area triaging and providing point protection.

(Updated 9/14/ 20 at 11:15 a.m.)

UPDATE: With a Red Flag Warning in place for Sunday, fire crews are reinforcing containment lines to help prevent the spread of the South Obenchain Fire.

As of 9 am Sunday morning, the South Obenchain Fire is 30,503 acres, an increase of over 1,000 acres since Saturday morning. The fire is still 20 percent contained.

Winds are expected to increase Sunday which would clear some smoke out of the area. If the smoke layer thins enough, aircraft are on stand by to help firefighting efforts.

(Updated 9/13/20 at 2:54 p.m.)

UPDATE: Fire officials reported on Saturday that the South Obenchain Fire is now 29,432 acres in size. While the fire has increased, crews have also increased containment to 20 percent as of 9 am Saturday morning.

With humidity levels increasing overnight and winds dying down, firefighters were able to make substantial progress in creating and holding fire lines. Crews were able to connect fire lines on the south and western edges of the fire and are now in the mop-up stage.

While this is good news, fire officials are wary of increased winds this afternoon that could test fire lines.

The focus for Saturday's firefighting efforts will be focused on the east and southeastern edges to prevent the fire from moving into steep terrain that bulldozers cannot access.

(Updated 9/12/20 at 1:27 p.m.)

UPDATE: The South Obenchain Fire is now just two miles south of Shady Cove, according to the latest from fire officials.

The Oregon Department of Forestry said on Friday evening that a special interagency task force is working to build a line between Highway 62 and Indian Creek Road, and will be in the area to protect homes.

On the south end of the fire, firefighters are holding a line beginning at Whiskey Creek and circling around to South Obenchain Road, extending northwest toward Shady Cove.

On the east end of the fire, flames are about eight miles away from Butte Falls. ODF said that firefighters are working on a line near Butte Falls Highway.

"The mountainous terrain means it’s a hard spot for dozers to dig a line," the agency said.

(Updated 9/11/20 at 5:40 p.m.)

UPDATE: Firefighters are trying to dig in along the north and east flanks of the South Obenchain Fire in order to keep it from reaching Shady Cove and Butte Falls, according to the latest from fire officials.

Flames raced east from the fire toward Butte Falls on Thursday, forcing evacuations in the Butte Falls area and south to Highway 140. Officials said that the fire burned to Star Lake Reservoir and just above Salt Creek Road.

"The smoke created visibility issues and aircraft were only able to fly intermittently," officials said. "The southwest perimeter is holding. Crews chased a few spots over the created fireline."

The fire's northern tip has reached the Indian Creek area. A hotshot crew is working in the area on Friday to tie in fire line. Officials also said that a large spot fire has spring up near the junction of Derby Creek Road and Crowfoot Road, but structural firefighters are in the area.

As of Friday morning, the South Obenchain Fire was still estimated at 23,150 acres with no containment.

(9/11/20 at 10:25 a.m.)

UPDATE: Right now the fire is at 23,150 acres and 0% contained. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

According to fire officials, the South Obenchain Fire was very active again today with running and spotting .3 miles ahead of the fire. On the south perimeter in the Worthington Road area, good dozer line is established and holding. On the west and northwest perimeters, the fire is backing down off of Highway 62. Retardant was used to cool the fire and allowing dozerline to be constructed. Spot fires are established in Indian Creek. The focus will be to contain these spots and to protect Shady Cove. The fire made a fire made a major push to the southeast towards Butte Falls and an evacuation Level 3 was issued for Butte Falls by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

An unmanned aircraft (UAS), also known as a drone, was reported over the fire area. If the air space is not clear, fire operations cannot continue flying. The entire air operation must be shut down until the air space is reported clear.

(Updated 9/10/20 at 8:46 p.m.)

UPDATE The Butte Falls area is now uder a Level 3 "GO" evacuation order, Jackson County announced minutes ago.

Areas under evacuation order include all of Butte Falls, Cobleigh Rd., the McNeil Creek Area, and Crowfoot Road due to the Obenchain Fire. EAST on Butte Falls-Fish Lake or South on Hwy 62 you will be escorted through Shady Cove.

The evacuated areas are bounded by Butte Falls Highway to the south and all connecting roads 2 miles past Butte Falls on Butte Falls -Fish Lake Road Northward including the first 4 miles past Butte Falls on Butte Falls - Prospect Hwy and northwesterly to toward Lost Creek Lake Dam, Highway 62 the northern boundary.

(Updated 9/10/20 at 3:30 p.m.)

UPDATE: Fire officials are expanding the Level 3 "GO" evacuation orders north of the South Obenchain Fire, based on Jackson County's interactive evacuation map.

The Level 3 zone now encompasses Shady Cove, Trail, and everything to the east up to and including the west side of Crowfoot Road. The area is bordered by the Rogue River on the north side. Much of Butte Falls Road east through McNeil Creek remains on Level 3 as well, as does the west side of Highway 62 to the Rogue River.

(Updated 9/10/20 at 12:40 p.m.)

UPDATE: Evacuation orders for the South Obenchain Fire were unchanged as of Thursday morning, with few updates coming in from the fire lines.

The last fire map provided by officials showed a large spot fire or extension of the fire's main area driving north, roughly parallel to Highway 62 and located to the southeast of Shady Cove.

An update posted by ODF on Wenesday night said that the fire covered an estimated 20,500 acres, burning primarily in mountain forestland north of Eagle Point and extending east toward Butte Falls.

"Dry southeast winds pushed the fire towards Shady Cove resulting in the evacuation of 5000 residents," the agency said. "A spot fire that ignited near Reese Creek on Tuesday night has merged with the main South Obenchain Fire."

(Updated 9/10/20 at 11:30 a.m.)

UPDATE: Shady Cove and Trail are now under evacuation orders due to the South Obenchain Fire.

"The boundaries include Rogue River Drive to Hwy 62 and all connecting roads North to including all of Shady Cove and Trail area," Jackson County said. "There is a fast moving, wind driven wildfire in your area, Please Evacuate now."

Highway 62 has been shut down from Highway 234 north through Shady Cove to the intersection with Tiller-Trail Highway as people continue to evacuate the area, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

"This closure will help facilitate evacuations of the area due to increased fire activity from the Obenchain Fire," the agency said.

The South Obenchain Fire is now estimated at upwards of 25,000 acres, according to the latest from fire officials. Roughly 5,000 people have been evacuated from the Shady Cove area.

(Updates 9/9/20 at 1:20 p.m.)

UPDATE: Level 3 "GO" evacuation orders are being expanded along Highway 62 Wednesday morning due to the South Obenchain Fire.

Officials with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office are upgrading the area from Butte Falls Road north along both sides of Highway 62 (west to the Rogue River) to Brophy Road at the south end of Shady Cove.

An updated interactive map of Jackson County evacuations can be viewed here.

(Updated 9/9/20 at 9:24 a.m.)

INITIAL REPORT: While a fast-moving wildfire continues to burn between Ashland and Phoenix, a new fire has grown simultaneously east of Eagle Point on Tuesday afternoon, likewise driven by strong winds and dry conditions.

According to Jackson County, Level 3 "GO" evacuation orders are in effect for residents closest to the fire.

Level 2 "Be Set" evacuation warnings have been issued along Rogue River Drive from Highway 234 to Shady Cove, and along Highway 62 from Eagle Point to Shady Cove. 

"Residents of Shady Cove should Be Set to evacuate! There is a temporary evacuation point at the Jackson County Expo, no sheltering is available," Jackson County Emergency Management said.

The South Obenchain Fire was last estimated at roughly 8,000 acres, starting near S Obenchain Road and Worthington Road. This is close to where the Worthington Fire burned at the beginning of August.

The Oregon Department of Forestry said that structures are threatened. The agency said that it spotted the fire just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Fire crews are getting into place and at least one air tanker is working on the fire.

This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.

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