Buckskin Fire burning in footprint of 2002 Biscuit Fire

(UPDATE at 7:04 a.m. PT, June 15, 2015)

Buckskin Fire
Buckskin Fire on June 14, 2015. Photo by Kris Sherman.

The Buckskin Fire 10 miles southwest of Cave Junction, Oregon spread east Sunday across Baldface Creek and grew to 1,400 acres. Firefighters are  improving existing trails on the west side of the fire for a potential contingency containment line. Ten helitack and four rappellers were flown to the spot fires southwest of the main fire and constructed direct fireline, assisted by water drops from helicopters.

Firefighters are staying in remote spike camps close to the fire in order to reduce travel time and increase productivity.

The Buckskin Fire is burning in an area scorched by the Biscuit Fire that burned half a million acres in 2002.

Map of Buckskin Fire
Map showing the location of heat detected by a satellite on the Buckskin Fire, 12:32 a.m. June 15, 2015. The red squares are the most recent. (click to enlarge)

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(UPDATE at 9:31 p.m. PT, June 13, 2015)

Buckskin Fire
Buckskin Fire, afternoon of June 13, 2015. MODIS.

The Buckskin Fire southwest of Cave Junction, Oregon was pushed by winds Saturday that varied from the northwest to the northeast causing the fire to spread on the southeast and southwest sides. As you can see in the satellite image above, the transport wind was consistently from the northeast.

The Crazy Peak weather station 13 miles southeast of the fire recorded winds Saturday afternoon of 2 to 3 mph with the highest gust being 9. The RH was in the 20s and the temperature was in the 70s. This is not, at least at that weather station, extreme fire weather, but apparently the Buckskin Fire spread easily through the footprint of the  2002 Biscuit Fire.

The Quail Prairie weather station 14 miles northeast of the fire recorded stronger winds on Saturday, 8 to 12 mph gusting up to 18 mph, with a low RH of 18% and temperatures in the mid-80s. It showed consistent north-northeast winds Saturday afternoon which jives with the satellite image above showing the  smoke plume drifting to the southwest.

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(Originally published at 12:59 p.m. PT, June 13, 2015)

Buckskin Fire
The Buckskin Fire, shortly after the Siskiyou Rappel Crew arrived the day the was reported on June 11. Photo by Michael Bobic.

A wildfire in southwest Oregon is bringing back memories of a huge fire that burned the same area 13 years ago. The Biscuit Fire burned half a million acres in 2002 leaving a forest of snags — dead trees that are now burning in a new fire, the Buckskin Fire.

Firefighters are loath to fight fire in a snag forest because the tree skeletons burn through readily and frequently — crashing to the ground creating a very hazardous situation for anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time. Snags kill firefighters.

Map of Buckskin Fire
Map showing the location of the Buckskin Fire in southwest Oregon at 5 a.m. on June 13, 2015. The red, brown, and yellow squares represent heat detected by a satellite. The fire is in the center of the brown footprint of the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

The fire has burned about 1,200 acres 10 miles southwest of Cave Junction, Oregon, and five miles north of the California border. From the satellite photo above, it appears to be in the center of the old Biscuit Fire.

Firefighters are assessing the situation, contemplating strategies for the fire on steep slopes with an abundance of snags. Conventional direct tactics, constructing firelines on the edge of the burning area, may not be feasible because of the hazards of falling trees. Adding to the already complex situation is the weather — a Red Flag Warning for the area is in effect for Saturday and Sunday. A local 10-person fire crew is monitoring the fire growth and scouting options for placement of containment lines. The plan is for full suppression of the fire.

Doug Johnson’s Type 2 Incident Management Team assumed command Saturday morning.

Buckskin Fire
Buckskin Fire, unknown date. Photo by Brandon Colville.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

7 thoughts on “Buckskin Fire burning in footprint of 2002 Biscuit Fire”

  1. I was in the Biscuit burn hiking just a a few weeks ago. If you could call it that, it was mostly scrambling around litter. That country is nothing but snags and is a real tinderbox.

  2. The evening the Biscuit Fire broke out, there were 75 Smokejumpers available, they were never called. The Cave Junction Smokejumper Base had been closed in the early 80’s for no other reason than “it was a management headache.”

    In the aftermath of the Biscuit fire, Smokejumper Magazine published an article questioning if the initial attack system was broken,

  3. What’s interesting is this fire is burning within one of the few portions of the Biscuit Fire that burned at low and moderate severity. Another low or moderate severity burn in this portion of the fire, to reduce the fuels that have build up over the past 13 years and turn up the resiliency factor for another 10+ years, might be just what that place needs. We should not all forget that these forests are adapted to frequent fire and mother nature made this one happen at a time of years she’s supposed to. I hope everyone stays safe and this fire burns primarily at low and moderate severity, eating up the fuel and adding complexity to a relatively homogeneous landscape.

  4. Thanks for the excellent report Bill. The Buckskin Fire may very well turn out to be quite interesting in many regards. We’ll see.

  5. Fire in this place because of previous burns, terrain, snags, weather and efverything else could burn for a while. Very hard to go direct, back off and burnout is the slogan.

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