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Hikers slowly return to Mendocino National Forest
New growth is already making a strong comeback in the charred 29,500 acres burned by the Mill Fire in July — and now hikers can come back, too.
Mendocino National Forest officials announced this week that foot traffic into the fire area is again being allowed.
"We are happy to be able to allow foot traffic into the Mill Fire area. This is a positive sign that the area is beginning to recover from the effects of this past summer's fire," forest Supervisor Sherry Tune said in a statement.
"We are continuing to monitor the area for opportunities to once again access to the recreating public, including (off-highway vehicles)."
However, the area is restricted from off-highway and other motorized vehicles through May 31, the Forest Service reported.
And the agency is serious about it.
Violation of the closure order and result in a $5,000 fine for an individual and $10,000 for and organization.
The fire started near the Mill Creek Campground in the Mendocino forest.
It burned an area from Letts Lake and threatened the outskirts of Stonyford.
Campgrounds and several small communities were evacuated during the fire, including Fouts Springs, were two old buildings associated with the New Tribes Mission were lost.
That holds historical significance because 49 missionaries from that group and one forest firefighter died in the Rattlesnake Fire in 1953.
Many look at that fire as the reason so many firefighting techniques and strategies changed.
No homes were lost in the Mill Fire, and there no reported deaths. Several injuries were reported, but none was serious.
The popular off-highway trails in that part of the Grindstone Ranger District were greatly impacted by the fire, officials said, and time is needed to heal the area.
Forest staff and volunteers have been part of the recovery effort.
"The help we have received to date has been inspiring," Tune said. "There is still a lot of work to do to restore the many miles of trail affected by the fire, but by working together, we are confident (off-highway vehicle) use will be able to return to the area soon."
Hikers are warned that because of the fire, the risk of landslides is greater, so they urge forest users to check weather forecasts and use caution.