By Laura Brown
Triplicate staff writer
Fires that originated from lightning on July 13 are still burning in the Siskyou National Forest just two miles north of the California border.
The so-called Biscuit Complex fires ignited in five separate areas. Three fires were located in Southwestern Curry County near Sourdough Campground above the north fork of the Smith River. Currently 1,400 acres of forest land are charred by that blaze.
The other portion of the Biscuit Complex fires is the Florence fire located west of Selma in the Kalimiopsis Wilderness north of the Illinois River. So far, 3,500 acres have burned there.
Rita Dyer, Rural Communications Assistant Director for the Siskyou National Forest says there is no estimate of containment at this time.
Sourdough Campground has been closed for a week, but swimmers were still visiting the beaches at Major Moore's, the old settlement located on the far northern end of Low Divide Road.
Crews had to retreat from the Biscuit area Saturday after erratic fire behavior created dangerous conditions for crews. Crews are monitoring the fire by air to develop future suppression tactics, according to the Siskiyou National Forest Web site.
Large plumes of smoke could be seen over the rocky ridgeline Sunday from the Smith River North Fork region also known as Major Moore's.
"Every other day we send someone into the north district just to kind of take a look and monitor the situation," said Syndy Heidt, assistant fire management officer of Smith River National Recreation Area. So far, the fire has not entered California.
Arizona Central West Zone Incident Management Team is fighting the fire because Oregon crews are battling blazes in other areas of the state. Several major wildfires were burning on about 225,452 acres in Oregon as of Monday morning. About 8,640 firefighters are working in the state according to the Associated Press.
The Arizona team is made of 564 personnel, 16 crews, 13 engines, five water tenders, three bulldozers and three helicopters.
Crews are currently clearing brush in areas where the fire is likely to spread.
"For safety reasons they are not right in the fire," said Dyer. Crews are being kept at a distance because of the severe heat of the fire caused by high fuel (dry mixed conifer and brush) in the forest. The terrain is also very steep and rugged. "Our number one priority is firefighter and public safety," said Dyer.
Water extinguishing by air is not a simple matter because of Port Orford Cedar root disease which is transmittable by water. "We are very sensitive to the Port Orford Cedar problem. There are certain places that we can and cannot get water," said Dyer. Some watering by air has been done, but without much effect. "That fire is so hot, it's kind of like a drop in the bucket," said Dyer.
At this time there have been no evacuations.
For more information about the fire and to view photographs, visit Web site: www.fs.fed.us/r6/siskiyou/biscuitcomplex.html.