Former Florence Fire becomes Biscuit Fire, and largest fire Oregon fire since 1890.
Daniel B. Wheeler
dwheeler at ipns.com
Tue Aug 13 00:03:37 EST 2002
>From The Sunday Oregonian, Aug. 11, 2002, p A15
Beast hasn't changed, just its name
THE FIRES: Crews fend off Biscuit fire, formerly called the Florence
fire, as it closes in on access road
By JOSEPH ROSE, The Oregonian
GOLD BEACH - Oregon's largest wildfire on record got a new name
Saturday as firefighters scrambled to defend a crucial access road 13
miles east of this oceanside town.
What was the 333,891-acre Florence fire on Saturday, today is
officially called the Biscuit fire. Fire officials said they did the
renaming because of complaints from the Oregon coastal city of the
Although the city of Florence is nearly 150 miles north of the fire,
the mayor and business leaders say national media attention has hurt
tourism. Mayor Alan Burns has said people are confusing the fire with
the town and canceling plans to vacation there.
But firefighters on Saturday had trouble with more than names - on
both sides of the fire.
On the northwestern portion, crews with bulldozers, drip torches and
chain saws worked through the day to establish a burnout barrier along
a U.S. Forest Service road that allows them access to the area's
rugged wilderness. It's also their only way out.
Commanders on Friday night had withdrawn about 200 firefighters from
the northwest fire line after a butte near the road erupted into
columns of flames, threatening to seal off their exit.
"It really caught us off guard," said Ray Hershey, supervisor of
firefighter Division U working to build containment lines around the
massive fire's northern head.
"We looked up and said, 'Where's that coming from? Oh, many, that's
not a cloud up there. It was a huge plume of smoke.' It was get out or
face getting trapped."
Fire officials were trying to tie several miles of containment line
to the road, which separates the main blaze from about 25,000 acres of
valuable timber and sensitive waterways in the Lawson Basin.
If the fire jumps the road and burns out of control, firefighters
will be forced to retreat and attempt to re-establish a new section of
line on more unforgiving terrain, Hershey said. On Saturday, it had
jumped the line three times, but firefighters were able to halt it.
On the southeastern side, quick erratic winds caused the fire to spot
on a portion of fire line west of O'Brien, near the California border,
a potential threat to Crescent City, Calif., power lines, officials
said. But Mike Ferris, fire spokesman, expected the spotting to be
under control by evening.
A helicopter working the southwest corner of the fire Saturday was
forced down at Tolman Ranch, near Wilderness Retreat, officials said,
because an instrument light signaled trouble. Carol Tocco of the
Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland said the vehicle
turned out to be functioning properly. The fire is now larger than the
311,000-acre first Tillamook Burn fire of 1933 and still menaces
several small towns. At the same time, little about the evacuation
notices hanging over those communities has changed.
On the fire's east flank, authorities upgraded Illinois Valley
residents' pre-evacuation notice to 12 hours from eight hours. On the
west side, about 20 homes in the tiny Chetco River community of
Wilderness Retreat, east of Brookings, remained under an evacuation
A voluntary evacuation advisory remained in effect in Gasquet,
Calif., at the fire's southern end, where the blaze jumped a fire line
The blaze, which covers more than 460 square miles in Southwest
Oregon and Northern California, is about 25 percent contained, Tocco
said. More than 6,000 firefighters are working it.
At the Gold Beach fire camp, officials debated reports calling the
Biscuit fire the largest in Oregon history. Some referred to evidence
that a few 19th century fires covered more ground. But the Tillamook
Burn was the largest since the Forest Service was established in the
1890s, they said.
Initially named after Florence Creek in Josephine County, where
lightning started the fire, the blaze's name now derives from the Sour
Biscuit fire. The Florence and Sour Biscuit fires merged a couple of
1. Biscuit* 333,891 acres 6,132 firefighters 25% contained
2. Tiller complex 40,124 1,895 25%
3. Hemlock 90 336 40%
4. Monument 24,378 9 95%
5. Timbered Rock 27,145 363 100%
Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
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