Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Buckskin Fire: Wednesday Morning Update

Fire Location: Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest 
Incident Commander: Doug Johnson
Information Center – 541-597-2223

The Buckskin Fire has had little growth over the past few days. The fire is estimated at 2,360 acres and is burning in the old fire scar of the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

Excellent progress has been made since this past weekend in building indirect containment lines around the fire in preparation for burnout Thursday along the eastern and southern flanks. The greatest current potential threat from the fire, due to fuels and terrain alignment with wind patterns to the nearest communities in the Illinois Valley are along the eastern flank, thus the concerted suppression emphasis in this area. When locating firelines, crews have taken advantage of previous suppression lines, trails, and roads to confine the fire without always needing to construct line in undisturbed areas.

In preparation for the planned burnout tomorrow, air tankers will be deployed today to pre-treat (with retardant) the east and south containment lines outside of the Wilderness. Residents and visitors to the area may see an increased amount of air activity today from these efforts.

Fire behavior on the western flank continues to be minimal due to sparse fuels. However, fire crews will continue work on a contingency line along the west (utilizing Trail 1233) and northwest sides of the fire should fire behavior increase in those areas.

Firefighters successfully contained the largest of the spot fires southwest of the main fire. Rapellers and helitack crews continue to use helicopter water drops to contain the spots. Firefighters have also begun working the remaining spot fires closer to the main body of the fire.

A community meeting was held last night at the Josephine County Building in Cave Junction. Approximately 80 people attended to hear an update on the Buckskin Fire and ask questions to fire managers. It was emphasized that the overall objective is to suppress the Buckskin Fire even though the fire currently lies 6-8 miles west of the nearest communities in the Illinois Valley. Fuels in the area are extremely dry due to prolonged drought. Fuels and fire behavior exhibit conditions normally found in July and August. Other large fires are starting across the Western states and Alaska which will now need firefighters, air resources and equipment to manage those situations. Fire fighting resources will become difficult to obtain as the fire season moves forward. As a result, the risk of not aggressively suppressing the Buckskin Fire at this point in the fire season is considered too great a threat to the communities surrounding the fire.

Natural resources at risk from the Buckskin Fire include: critical Coho Salmon habitat, Northern Spotted Owl habitat, Marbled Murrelet habitat and wilderness values. Resource advisors, such as botanists, fish and wildlife biologists and archaeologists, work with the Incident Management Team 3 daily to provide options for suppressing the fire while being sensitive to the resources. A “weed wash station” has been set up to wash vehicles going out to the fire and when returning to camp to reduce the potential spread of invasive species to lands in and around the fire.

Communities in the Illinois and Rogue Valleys may continue to be impacted by smoke to varying degrees due to shifting winds, which are expected to persist for the next several days. Detailed air quality information can be found on Oregon Smoke Information at

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest has issued a Fire Area Closure Order closing public access to forest land surrounding the fire for public health and safety. The Order, in its entirety, can be viewed on the Buckskin Fire Inciweb site (see web address above) and Buckskin Fire Facebook web pages.

Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR): The TFR is in place over the Buckskin Fire. Please check the NOTAMs for current information.

Start Date - June 11, 2015
Location - The wildfire is burning on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest 10 miles southwest of Cave Junction.
Cause - Lightning
Resources - Crews – 12; Dozers – 7; Engines – 5; Water Tenders – 13; Helicopters – 10
Total Personnel - 536