Biscuit Fire – Originally ran in Aug. 7, 2002 edition of the Illinois Valley News
Fire dragon starts to run, but danger lurks: I.V. blesses, thanks firefighters
by Sherri Hopper
A week after the Tuesday, July 30 public meeting during which fire officials stood before residents of Illinois Valley and requested that they voluntarily evacuate, things have steadily progressed to a calmer situation.
Finally receiving a break in the weather pattern that calmed the winds and lowered temperatures for several days, the fire growth slowed.
As of Monday, Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. the entire fire was “upped” to a four hour pre-evacuation notice. It had been 30 minute since Tuesday, July 30.
Meanwhile, bulldozers and fire crews worked continuously to construct a fire line along the eastern side of the fire, with backburn operations occurring throughout the week.
As of Tuesday, Aug. 6, fire crews were working along the northeast flank of the Florence Fire, continuing to prepare fire line from Hanson Saddle to Soldier Camp. From Sam Brown Campground to the area of fire line west of O’Brien, firefighters will be patrolling fire line and mopping up. In the area south of O’Brien, fire line construction continued.
Fire officials were anticipation weather conditions that would begin a gradual warming and drying out with the possibility of sustained northeast to east winds on excess of 15 mph. That change with the relative humidity dropping below 35 percent, prompted a fire weather watch Tuesday night.
On Monday, the Broyles Type II Incident Management Team transitioned management of the Sour Biscuit Fire-Zone 1 to Fire-Zone 1 to the Pacific Northwest National Incident Management Team, a Type 1 team. It now will manage the east side of Florence Fire and the Sour Biscuit, which fire officials believe will merge.
With the transition of management, the fire camp at “Forks” State Park in Cave Junction has been demobilized, with the Florence Fire Camp at Lake Selmac becoming the hub of fire-fighting activity.
As of Tuesday, the Florence Fire, including Sour Biscuit up to the California Border, was listed at 241,282 acres, with 10 percent containment. The cost of the firefighting effort so far is $13.7 million.
An estimate of total containment is not available.
A federal Emergency Management Agency team traveled from Seattle to the area on Tuesday to meet with fire management officials as well as area municipal officials and emergency agencies.
The principal focus of the visit was to view how fire management proceeds. The FEMA team visited the Florence Fire Camp; met briefly with local government representatives; and proceeded to the spike camp at Sam Brown Campground. They also intended to view the Timber Rock Fire scene.
According to city of Cave Junction Recorder Jim Polk, who met briefly with the FEMA team, the valley’s situation still does not meet the thresholds established to be designated as a FEMA emergency. However, there might be some assistance for the cost of fighting the fire in the form of monies from the Fire Suppression Act, which is part of federal fire management legislation.
There also exists the possibility of the Small Business Administration making some assistance available for businesses and the economic effect of the fire.
“Ultimately, the whole process is still a question mark at this point,” said Polk. “We’ll be finding out more in the future.”
To date, the backburn process has been successful. There were two spot fires on Tuesday evening across the primary fire, one in the Rough and Ready area and the other near Airport Drive. The two fires were quickly contained at 5 acres each, and mopped by night crews.
Meanwhile, fire danger still exists for Illinois Valley should weather or other conditions worsen. Fire officials said that although progress has been made against the blaze, no one should be complacent.
Those who have moved livestock out of the valley are urged to consider keeping them away until the fire danger is much more greatly alleviated.
Smoke around the valley will continue for some time, according to fire officials, while operations continue. Large plumes will be seen, but they are planned as part of overall operations, according to fire officials.