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Controlled burns coming closer to Ashland

 Posted: 12:30 PM April 07, 2014

Expect some temporary trail closures and smoke that's visible from across the Rogue Valley as the ongoing Ashland Forest Resiliency Project tackles 75 acres of land near the White Rabbit trailhead and Ashland Loop Road.

U.S. Forest Service and City of Ashland lands will be targeted by the project, which aims to reduce fire danger in the Ashland watershed.

The burning of dead vegetation for forestry health should kick off toward the end of the month, though that date could change if the weather is too dry, officials said.

"That's tended to be the good window," said Ashland Fire & Rescue Forestry Division Chief Chris Chambers. "There's still the possibility it might not happen. It's an interesting game. We'll be out there a lot monitoring conditions in the coming weeks."

Crews hope to perform an "underburn" that will remove dead vegetation from the forest floor. Workers will light strips about five feet of wide on fire at a time and let the flames burn up to a pre-drawn fireline.

"They just back the fire down the hillside with these strips," Chambers said. "Most of what we consume is the dead vegetation along the forest floor. It's sticks, the needles, the grasses."

Smoke will be visible because of the burn operation's proximity to Ashland. The Alice in Wonderland trail will be closed from the White Rabbit trailhead above Morton Street down to the city limits. Parts of the White Rabbit Trail will also be closed, though those spots haven't been designated yet.

Chambers said he anticipates a clearing of smoke within two to three days, dependent on how quickly crews wrap up work.

The Ashland Forest Resiliency Project is a cooperative effort undertaken by the U.S. Forest Service, the City of Ashland, The Nature Conservancy and Lomakatsi Restoration Project. Groups involved hope to reduce the risk of large-scale wildfires by thinning 7,600 acres of overgrown and dead vegetation in the Ashland watershed over 10 years.

— Ryan Pfeil

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