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Public lands reopen after fire closures

A firetruck drives along California Highway 96 as the McKinney Fire burns on Saturday.
Noah Berger
The McKinney Fire began at the end of July and burned over 60,000 acres.

The Klamath National Forest has reduced the area under emergency fire closure, effective Oct. 1.

As cleanup continues in the wake of the McKinney and Yeti Fires, certain areas are being reopened for public access. The recent decision by the Klamath National Forest has reopened nearly 30,000 acres of public land.

"As areas of that footprint get completed, we're reassessing and saying, ‘Okay, if we're not doing work in here anymore, it's time for us to be able to allow public access in there,'" said Klamath National Forest Public Affairs Officer Jennifer Erickson.

Only some areas south of the Klamath River now remain closed.

Erickson cautions that residents should still be careful.

"Public access is kind of back to normal in those areas. But I do want to remind folks that anytime they are within a burned area, there are additional hazards that folks need to be aware of, primarily dead trees. That is still a hazardous situation," she said.

There are around 60,000 acres that are still closed as crews continue cleanup efforts.

Some fire restrictions remain in place, Erickson said, so campfires are only permitted in campgrounds or wilderness areas with a permit.

"Things are still really dry," she said. "Everything has been kind of baking for the summer. So even though the days are getting shorter and it feels a little cooler, there's still plenty of potential for wildfires to start. So everybody needs to continue to be careful."

Erickson said the cause of the McKinney Fire is still under investigation. The Yeti Fire was sparked by lightning at the end of July and destroyed over 7,000 acres.

The Bureau of Land Management has also reopened much of the public land that was closed due to the Rum Creek Fire, which ignited due to lightning in mid-August and burned over 20,000 acres.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.