Oregon Fire Crews at Risk From Forest of Dead Trees

By TIM FOUGHT | June 15, 2015

Crews mobilizing to fight a new fire in southwestern Oregon face a danger left over from a major fire 13 years ago: dead, standing trees that could fall on them.

Those dead trees are called snags, always a danger for fire crews working in the woods.

The extensive Biscuit Fire of 2002 left behind what fire spokeswoman Pam Sichting described Saturday as “a multitude of snags.” Some of them will have to be cut down before crews can safely dig containment lines around the new fire, she said.

The new fire is called Buckskin after a nearby peak, and it’s within the Biscuit fire area. The Biscuit eventually burned a mosaic of land covering 780 square miles – half a million acres – and was the biggest fire in the nation that year.

The Buckskin fire was estimated at less than 2 square miles – 1,100 acres – on Friday, and the fire team reported on Saturday afternoon that crews were monitoring its growth in hot, gusty weather that could contribute to its rapid spread.

Among the fuel is brush that has grown in the area since the Biscuit fire, Sichting said.

The fire is in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest about 10 miles south of the town Cave Junction, population about 1,900. No structures were reported in jeopardy.

Helicopters were bringing in firefighters and supplies, Sichting said, and a crew of 10 was scouting for potential fire lines, the boundaries firefighters dig and then widen to contain a fire.

“We’re just kind of getting our legs underneath us,” she said.

Crews reported that helicopters dropped water on the Buckskin Fire Saturday afternoon. Fire officials said they planned to close an area around the fire for public safety, and they said motorists on U.S. 199 southeast of the fire and other nearby roads should be watchful of fire traffic.

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