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Biscuit fire forces forest closures

As the blaze closes in, officials move to keep people from regions of Siskiyou, Umpqua

Citing extreme fire danger, the U.S. Forest Service has closed much of the western region of the Siskiyou National Forest and portions of the Umpqua National Forest.

Signed by acting Rogue River/Siskiyou national forest supervisor Tom Reilly on Friday, the Siskiyou closure includes the bulk of the Gold Beach and Chetco ranger districts.

Public entry and access into the districts is now prohibited.

The closure comes when the largest fire in the nation this year continues to burn on the western edge of the Siskiyou forest.

The 492,342-acre Biscuit fire, which was 65 percent contained Friday afternoon, is the largest in Oregon since the 1865 Silverton fire.

The continuing fire and rehabilitation activities, along with associated hazards, has made an unsafe situation for our visiting public, Reilly said in a press release. Hazards making this closure necessary include active fire, movement of large equipment, and the potential for falling snags, rocks and other debris.

The entire Galice Ranger District and the portion of the Illinois Valley Ranger District west of Highway 199 was already closed. That area remains closed.

In the Umpqua forest, where firefighters still have their hands full with several fires, including the 7,000-acre-plus Apple fire, closures affect the north Umpqua Ranger District, the Tiller Ranger District and portions of the Diamond Lake Ranger District west of and including Copeland Creek.

Closure exceptions include travel along state Highway 138, the Tiller-Trail Highway and the Cow Creek Road.

The public should check with forest officials to find out what campgrounds remain open and what activities are still permitted in the Umpqua forest.

Exceptions to the Siskiyou closure include the Lower Rogue River Trail, the Redwood Nature Trail, the Francis Shrader Old Growth Trail and the Myrtle Tree Trail.

Roads that remain open include forest roads 1107, 1108, 1376, 3300090 and 3730.

Those exempt from the closure include anyone with a permit authorizing admission into the closed area; owners of private inholdings within the districts; and those who lease portions of land within the closed areas.

Also exempted are members of law enforcement, emergency rescue or firefighting crews entering the districts in the performance of their duty.

Anyone violating the closure orders can be fined up to &

36;5,000 and jailed for up to six months. Organizations can be fined up to &

36;10,000 for a closure violation.

While firefighters continue to gain on the Biscuit fire, which was ignited by a lightning storm July 13, officials are concerned that a change in weather this weekend could bring hot, dry winds from the east, increasing the potential for a flare-up, according to a fire spokesman.

The fire has burned through almost all the 200,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area as well as much of the Siskiyou forest.

The fire has burned in a mosaic, scorching some areas while barely burning the forest floor in others.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at