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Some fire-damaged areas reopen in Willamette National Forest

Devastating wildfires closed parts of the forest in 2020. The U.S. Forest Service is reopening more than 188,000 acres of damaged space.

DETROIT, Ore. — Parts of the Willamette National Forest have just reopened after being shut down by the devastating wildfires of 2020. The U.S. Forest Service is welcoming visitors back, but urging them to be aware of hazards that remain.

The Willamette National Forest covers a lot of the Cascades, from south of Eugene to up north to the Detroit Ranger District. The Beachie Creek fire did a lot of damage through the Santiam Canyon, in the city of Detroit, and on the Willamette National Forest.

“It was definitely, as it's been coined, a once-in-a-century event, so it was definitely an experience that I'll keep with me the rest of my life,” said acting Forest Supervisor Duane Bishop.

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Bishop was there for the fires and has been directing the recovery.

And after two years of rebuilding and regrowth, the woods are making a comeback, and the U.S. Forest Service says the time has come to reopen 188,000 acres in the Willamette National Forest.

Plenty of forest was untouched, and some other land was not as severely burned, but certain sections were hit very hard.

“Visitors will see a lot of fire-killed trees and vegetation, and so it will be very much dependent on where they want to go in the forest, in (terms of) what they might see or experience,” Bishop said.

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The recovery is still a work in progress that will take years to complete, the forest supervisor said, especially around roads and trails, so hazards will remain in some places, and visitors will need to be aware of their surroundings.

“It's called the four steps for safety: look up, look down, look around, and look below,” Bishop said.

Visitors should also plan their journeys carefully, he said, being mindful of their own strengths and abilities in the forest.

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“We're asking people who come out and visit public land to really take into account, based on your skill level, about where you want to be and some of the hazards around you, and just be cognizant of that and really pay attention to your surroundings," he said. "But we also are very excited to open these areas up and for to people come out and visit and enjoy and continue to make memories.”

Visit the U.S Forest Service online for more information about specific openings and current or continuing closures

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