KTVL CBS Channel 10 Mailing List

News10 LiveLinks from BroadcastDrive Safe Mode
KTVL CBS Channel 10 :: News - Top Stories - Fire Service stands by Biscuit decisions

Friday, July 13 2012, 10:40 AM CDT
Fire Service stands by Biscuit decisions
By Hillary Brown/KTVL.com

SELMA, Ore.― The summer of 2002 presented the perfect storm of circumstances for the blaze that would become known as the Biscuit Fire. 

That summer, flames scorched nearly 500,000 acres, burned four homes and left an indelible mark on communities throughout the Illinois Valley.

Illinois Valley Fire District Captain Tom Zulliger worked the Biscuit Fire.  Looking at the scorched hills of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, he can remember the lightning strikes that sparked the fires, as well as the actions that sparked controversy.

“I don’t know what they were thinking.  I know what they did,” Zulliger said as he spoke about the U.S. Forest Service’s response to the flames. “They didn’t take action on it for awhile.”

At the time it burned, the Biscuit Fire was Oregon’s largest and most expensive wildfire in recent history.  Controlling the flames took nearly two months and efforts to extinguish it completely lasted through the remainder of 2002.

Five fires combined to create the Biscuit Complex.  The first of the five was sparked when a line of dry lightning storms moved through Northern California and Southern Oregon beginning July 12, 2002.  There were 12,000 strikes over the course of three days, according to the U.S. Forest Service.  The strikes started 375 small fires.  The lightning added fuel to growing concerns that had already been fanned by increasing temperatures and a lack of resources.

“Two thousand two was another huge fire season in the southwest and Rocky Mountain area, so a lot of our local resources had been deployed to those areas,” said Paul Galloway of the U.S. Forest Service. “This is remote country.  The burning conditions were at the extreme level.”

Following the Biscuit Fire, Oregon representatives Greg Walden, Peter DeFazio and Scott McInnis requested a review of the reaction to the natural disaster.  The U.S. General Accounting Office did an investigation into the fire response, resource availability and personnel certification standards.  The goal of the report was to determine whether fire management had reacted appropriately to the fire and whether the mass burn could have been prevented.

The first two fires that would become part of the Biscuit were the Carter Fire and Biscuit 1. Crews were able to contain the Carter fire, according to the Forest Service.  By the time crews were able to get to the Biscuit 1, daylight was running out and access was an issue. 

Fire managers decided to let it burn.

The next day -- July 13 -- three more fires were identified.  All of those fires were in rugged areas and weren’t threatening homes.  Again, the decision was made to let them burn and to use the limited resources available on other fires.

It’s a move Illinois Valley Fire District Captain Joe Feldhaus understood.

“It was in the middle of an area that hadn’t burned in quite awhile, out in the wilderness,” he said. “Then, once it got its steam, there were other fires that needed attention, so it did not get the resources that it would have initially.”

The GAO report revealed the first 24 hours of a fire attack are crucial to getting flames under control.  Ninety-nine percent of fires aggressively fought in that time frame are extinguished.  Galloway agreed with that analysis, but said there was more at play with the Biscuit fires.

“The other fires were less accessible.  By the time we got there, with the resources that we had, they wouldn’t have been successful.  So we need to assess that, as far as safety for our firefighters and staff, are we putting them in a situation where, one, they can’t be successful and, two, they’re dealing with some pretty extreme fire behavior with limited safety zones and escape routes. Why would you do that?”


Many people questioned the Forest Service's decisions as the fires burned larger and began to join together.  When the fires first started, the Forest Service called regional managers looking for support. 

News10 interviews and the government’s assessment of the response revealed differing answers as to whether fire managers called California for aide. 

The GAO said California was not called because fire managers assumed the state was busy fighting its own fires.

Galloway said California was contacted, but its offer of help was turned down for several reasons, including the limited time the helicopter would be available.

“We had that offer,” Galloway said. “Given the size of the fires, the availability of the helicopters was very limited as far as the time they'd be able to spend on the fire. The assessment was made that given the help that they were offering, it wasn’t going to be significant enough to try and engage them.”

Galloway went on to say that the overall lack of resources put the whole Forest Service in a tough position.

 “We had waivers that we could use mechanized equipment within the wilderness, drop retardant within the wilderness, those kinds of things were in place during the fire,” he pointed out.  “It’s just that, in order to utilize that stuff, you have to have boots on the ground and we couldn’t get them there.”

By July 17, the fires had been declared one for administrative purposes.  The combined fires were called the Biscuit Complex.  Within 10 days, the Forest Service was calling the fire “explosive.” Josephine County activated its Emergency Operations Center and evacuation notices were issued for the entire Illinois Valley.

“It was coming.  It looked like it was coming,” Feldhaus said. “It looked like it was going to come into the valley.” 

As fire managers made another controversial decision to back burn into the fire to protect towns, community members were growing more unhappy with the strategy and were concerned the back burns were too large.

“Honestly, people were mad at the Forest Service,” Feldhaus said. “They were mad that the Forest Service had let it go.”

The Forest Service maintained that’s what it had to do to protect people and homes.  On August 3, 2002, a fire behavior computer model gave a 70 percent probability that one segment of the fire would burn over communities in the Illinois Valley within 48 hours.

“Firefighters put in over 40 miles of fire line to try to halt the fire and minimize the impact,” Galloway said. “Pretty heroic stuff.”


The Biscuit Fire was declared contained 55 days after it began and was controlled 119 days after the first starts. 

In all, the fire burned 499,570 acres and cost nearly $155 million to fight.  Four residences had been burned and 10 other structures lost.

As the tenth anniversary of the fire neared, the Forest Service continued to defend its actions.  A representative pointed out that no firefighters had been killed while battling the flames and no towns had been burned.

Looking back, Galloway said the decisions that were made were ones that put people and homes above everything else. Despite the questions and controversies, the Forest Service is standing by its decisions and its crews and crediting them for keeping the Biscuit Fire from becoming a larger disaster than it already was.

“There’s still a lot of emotion that’s tied to the event, whether you’re the resident and still want to do the armchair quarterbacking.. or the agency person,” Galloway said.  “It was a tough year.  We did what we could do with what we had. I don’t think many of the decisions, if any of the decisions, that were made during the first few days of that fire event would change much today.”


General Accounting Office Report on the Biscuit Complex Fire

Biscuit Fire from Space

Interactive Biscuit Fire Maps

From Awesome Glow to Scorched Earth: Remembering the Biscuit

Fire Service stands by Biscuit decisions

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Related Stories

  • KTVL :: Community - Mr. Food

    Mr. Food

    See the most recent TV Recipes & Videos!
  • KTVL :: Community - Ray's Stuff The Truck

    Ray's Stuff The Truck

    Join us in the fight against hunger!
  • KTVL :: Community - Health and Beauty

    Health and Beauty

  • KTVL :: Community - Automotive


    Find valuable information about buying your next car, including price quotes and your latest automotive news.
  • KTVL :: Community - Community Toy Drive

    Community Toy Drive

    Find out how you can help today!
  • KTVL :: Community - Community Calendar

    Community Calendar

    Looking for something to do? Check the events calendar.
  • KTVL :: Community - Gas Prices

    Gas Prices

    Gas prices are on everybody's mind. So News10 is working with Gas Buddy to help you find the cheapest gas in the area.
  • KTVL :: Community - West Coast Flavors

    West Coast Flavors

    Who doesn't love good food? News 10 invites area chefs to the West Coast Appliance kitchen to cook up their favorite recipes.

KTVL Top Stories

Strong emotions as Obama visits grieving Oregon town

Mt. Ashland gears up for upcoming season

The show must go on for Ashland hotels

6th Annual SoPride Parade

Hanley Farm ready for Halloween

Emergency water shutdown in Yreka

Gun Shops Are Booming

Coastal Thefts On The Rise

Salty Water's Back In Harbor

Will Brookings Vote For An Additional Tax?

Anti-violence programs shut down as Chicago shootings climb

New California law extends privacy rights to electronic data

1 fatally shot at Texas Southern University housing complex

Obama focusing on condolences, not gun laws, in Oregon visit

Forest Service proposes timber sale in Elkhorn Mountains

Humorous wine bottle label strikes familiar chord with teachers

Oregon pot stores sell more than $11 million in first 5 days

1 dead, 3 wounded in shooting at Northern Arizona University

SOU honors Umpqua Community College

SOU praised for online proactiveness

Beyond 'Like:' 5 ways you might soon emote on Facebook

Music Coop Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Water Flush Discoloration

Woman describes issues at mine during trial of ex-coal CEO

Battery fires: FAA to back ban on passenger plane shipments

University of Oregon to offer free football tickets to Umpqua Community College students, staff

McCarthy abruptly withdraws candidacy for House speaker

Donald Trump says Bowe Bergdahl should have been executed

People pack meeting of panel eyeing expansion of whale tanks

Airlines post better on-time rate but get more complaints

License suspended for nurse accused of reusing syringes

Court: Hot yoga's sequence of poses can't be copyrighted

In Oregon visit, Obama will find grief but also resentment

Men suspected in armed car jacking in custody

Three Years in the Making: Oregon's Newest Sobering Center

Estate files lawsuit in death of woman in Murphy bed

US airman who helped thwart French train attack is stabbed

JCSO: Driver sought in Highway 62 pursuit

Man arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing minors

South Carolina still on edge from floods; 2 die in truck

Feds say first humpback whales of season spotted in Hawaii

Obama signs law preventing premium hikes under health law

Authorities track GPS to find 3 people sought in killing

Middle school receives Fuel Your School donation

New Body Cameras for Grants Pass Police

OSP arrest driver in August rollover crash that killed one

Pump Break in Grants Pass

Gun Classes In High Demand

American Red Cross and Sinclair: Home Fire Preparedness Campaign

SOU students say they feel safe

SOU to reopen Thursday

Coast Guard abandons search for 33 missing crew members

California governor signs aggressive climate change bill

Hawthorne Park to open Saturday

ODFW stocks fish for fundraiser for family of UCC victim

Planned Pacific Power Outage near Ashland Thursday

Oregon gunman killed himself after police shot him

Obama apologizes to aid group for US attack on Afghan clinic

"Notifeye" helps family stay in touch during emergencies

Unconfirmed threat closes SOU's Ashland campus classes

Bomb threat emergency plan successful

California governor signs law targeting gender wage gap

ACLU lawsuit: County jails people who can't pay court fines

Harvard's prestigious debate team loses to NY inmates

Ore. teen sentenced to 10 years in great-grandmother's death

Stolen truck found but tofu and organic drinks missing

Ex-UN General Assembly head among 6 held in bribery scheme

Disaster plan developed in case fire reaches nuclear waste

LAPD: Rap group posted video of gun flashed near officer

Texas executes inmate for killing man in $8 robbery

Thousands of federal drug inmates set for early release

Josephine County Fire Departments Suffer From Sheriff Budget Cuts

UCC Scams & How To Donate Securely

Police: Grants Pass teen arrested, intended to confront an officer

SOU to host UCC support events Thursday

Officials: Man arrested for sexually abusing teen

Oregon community colleges to hold vigils for Umpqua Community College

Oregon State Police arrest 2 for deer poaching

Oregon wildlife officials ask public to report sick elk

Pilot who became ill aboard flight died of natural causes

Ohio man calls cops to complain he got too high on marijuana

Mixed reactions to new California racial profiling law

Woman found inside portable toilet gets arrested on warrants

Students and Faculty Reflect on Re-Opening

Umpqua Community College Re-Opens

Marijuana dispensary hits business record with recreational sales

TPP trade agreement could put Oregon beef industry on map

Publisher apologizes for textbook calling slaves 'workers'

Hunter escapes attack by shoving arm down bear's throat

'Fire hose' of moisture slams South Carolina; 12 killed

Data hack at 7 Trump hotels confirmed

'Oh, my God': Man who finds missing 2-year-old girl jubilant

Marijuana pesticide flap brings consumer lawsuit in Colorado

Woman accused of injecting 14-year-old daughter with heroin

Supreme Court rejects San Jose appeal over Athletics' move

Amtrak train hits rocks on track, derails in central Vermont

Farmer opens barn to show woolly mammoth bones

Medford Library to re-open Tuesday following RCC bomb threat

Obama to visit Oregon shooting victims' families

Gunman ranted about not having girlfriend

No explosives found on Rogue Community College campuses, investigation ongoing

California governor signs hard-won right-to-die legislation

Motorcyclist dies following failed traffic stop

Woman arrested in connection to Wednesday Eagle Point pursuit

Classes Cancelled for Rogue Community College and SOU's Medford campus

All Rogue Community College campuses evacuated for bomb threat

Oregon shooter showed little sympathy in calculated killings

Pastor Shares Daughter's Story of Survival

Art Along the Rogue wraps up

Drive Less Connect program kicks off

Car wash held for UCC victims

Bubble Indoor Soccer bounces into Medford

Spiritual Candlelight Vigil

UCC Shooting Timeline

UCC Shooting Victim's Family Speaks Out

Medford Police Deals with Stolen Bikes Regularly

Drumming Up a New Audience at Music Festival

Community Members get Tour of Renewable-Energy Sites

Medford Fire-Rescue Debuts Sprinkler Trailer

Medford Battalion Chief Leaves for Roseburg

15 Now at the Talent Harvest Festival

How To Help UCC Victims

Bush, Clinton display the political divide over gun control

Accident on Interstate 5 overpass causes backup

Victims in UCC shooting identified

Oregon gunman was Army dropout who studied mass shooters

Sheriff maintains support for gun rights after mass shooting

Aunt of wounded victim: Nephew tried to stop college shooter

'We began to run': Students describe horror of shooting

No confirmed threat for Coos County

Potential threats against Ashland High School cancel homecoming parade

S.O.U. Response to U.C.C. Shooting

A Drive for Food Drives in Ashland

Gunman opens fire at Oregon college

Parkinson's Patient Walking Again

Medford Hospitals Stood By For Shooting Victims

Medford Police & Fire Station Update

Douglas Sheriff gives new UCC shooting numbers

Five acre fire reported near White City

Oregon leaders react to Roseburg shooting

Rogue Credit Union establishes donation fund for UCC shooting victims

Josephine County Sheriff's Office responds to Umpqua Community College shooting

10 confirmed dead in Umpqua Community College shooting

Bakery owners refuse to pay damages in gay wedding cake case

Ex-police volunteer who stole guns sentenced to prison

Your Sports: 09.30.2015

Take it or "Leaf" it: Ashland's Tree of the Year Nominations

Making Way for Recreational Marijuana

Ashland Co-op Outgrowing its Space

Marijuana dangerous for children?

Artist shot, killed while painting anti-violence mural

Amid Taliban gains, US military favors longer presence

Protestors hope governor will take action against pipeline

EPA sets limit for toxic pollutants released into waterways

Oklahoma sheriff indicted, plans to resign

Hurricane Joaquin gains force near Bahamas, heads toward US

Immigrants say about-face on visas costs them millions

Oregon regulators fine aerial pesticide spraying company

Hunters warned of fire danger

Compass House Celebrates First Birthday

Mt. Ashland announces fall pass sale

A Medford Apartment Complex Is Not Up To Code

MADGE: One in custody in Eagle Point pursuit, still searching for another

Josephine County Board of Commissioners sues Kairos Northwest, Umqua Bank

Patrolling for Weed

Only woman on Georgia's death row executed; 1st in 70 years

Eagle Point horse tests positive for West Nile virus

Jackson County Fire District 3 receives Lowe's Hero Grant

Coos Bay man fatally struck while trying to get mail

Things to know about recreational marijuana sales

One Man Resentenced Because Of A Supposed Computer Glitch

County denies land-use permit for Mountain View Paving

Authorities ask family of missing persons for DNA, records

Consumer agency hears about student loan servicing problems

Burned as baby, woman finally meets nurse who cared for her

Novelist quits teaching at Arizona college over loyalty oath

Keystone XL developer drops landowner lawsuits in Nebraska

Haunted Houses Take Safety Precautions

Environmental groups seek end to all Arctic Ocean drilling

Four vehicle crash on Highway 199 causes delays

Amazon tests Uber-like service for deliveries

Police: Mom tossed newborn out 7th-story window in New York

Trump breaks Fox News 'boycott' after 1 week

Catherine Coulson, who played Log Lady in 'Twin Peaks,' dies

How to turn off 'Wi-Fi Assist': the iOS9 update that could cost you thousands of dollars

Fugitive accused of kidnapping arrested after 24 years

Oklahoma panel orders removal of Ten Commandments monument

Facebook status hoax returns

Cooler weather changes game for motorcycle safety

Klamath County District Attorney's Office overwhelming amount of homicides

Brady Adams Tribute

Actor Paul Walker's daughter sues Porsche over fatal crash

Autopsy: High school quarterback died from internal bleeding

Drivers from Taiwan get reprieve from driver's license test

Idaho woman gets 1½ year term for California egg donor fraud

Washington state suspends operations of duck tour company

Takata air bag recalls could expand to 7 more companies

Senate advances stopgap spending bill to avoid shutdown

Planned Parenthood president 'proud' of fetal tissue work

Whole Foods to cut about 1,500 jobs over next 8 weeks

EPA rules will strengthen pesticide safety on farms

Oregon medical marijuana dispensaries gear up for rec sales

Marijuana bundle falls from sky, slams into family's carport

Cooking fire in double-wide kills two dogs

Strong evidence Mars has streams of salt water in summertime

Amphibious tour vehicle lacked axle fix before Seattle crash

Woman arrested in connection to weekend Klamath Falls murder

Exit 24 Opens Early

Crash on Highway 99

Students Love "S.O.U. Loves Ashland" Event

Growers and Crafters Market Concerns

Hot Air Balloon Fair Does More For Montague

Rally For Water

Labor Justice advocates speak against toxins

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Should your town impose a 1-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries?
ASHLAND, Ore. (AP) — One of Oregon's more liberal cities is considering a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Ashland Daily Tidings newspaper reports that the Oregon Health Authority Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program has already received six dispensary applications for Ashland.

But neighborhood opposition has been increasing and the council will discuss a moratorium on April 1.

People hoping to launch dispensaries in Oregon began submitting applications to the state on March 3 as part of a new medical marijuana regulatory system.

A proposed dispensary called Top Shelf Meds abuts an Ashland neighborhood.

Carol Kim says the dispensary is separated from her home by a hedge. She says it's ironic that state rules bar dispensaries near schools, but her daughters will come home from school and have to live near a dispensary.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.
My town should definitely impose the moratorium for one year -- no more, no less.
My town should NOT impose the moratorium for any length of time. My town should follow current state laws on medical marijuana dispensaries.
I am unsure whether I am in favor of medical marijuana dispensaries in my town, regardless of current state laws.

Business News

US wholesale stockpiles rise in August, but sales fall

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cheaper oil and less demand for autos and machinery weighed on wholesalers in August, as their inventories edged up just slightly while sales dropped.

Entertainment News


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- For the second time in a decade, Bill Cosby will have to answer questions under oath in a sexual assault case.

Get This


LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) -- The Royals could have used Mickey Cobb's ring last night.

Science/Tech News


NEW YORK (AP) -- It's happened to all of us on Facebook: someone says a loved one is ill or that they're going through some other kind of tough time.

  • KTVL :: News - Connect to Congress

    Connect to Congress

  • KTVL :: News - City In Crisis

    City In Crisis

  • KTVL :: News - Drive Safe Mode

    Drive Safe Mode

    Help keep you and your loved ones safe on the road, Pledge against distracted driving and support safety on our roads.
  • KTVL :: News - News10 Special Report

    News10 Special Report

    News10 investigates the issues affecting your town.
  • KTVL :: News - Across The Nation

    Across The Nation

    News and information from across the nation.
  • KTVL :: News - Border Crisis

    Border Crisis

  • KTVL :: News - Your Voice. Your Future.

    Your Voice. Your Future.

    As the country faces challenges from federal budget issues to jobs and national debt, your voice is critical to the future.
  • KTVL :: News - Health Care Reform

    Health Care Reform

     The Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act sparked a new battle. Check here daily for the latest developments, locally and across the country.
  • KTVL :: News - Washington Times

    Washington Times

    Politics, Breaking News, US and World News.
  • KTVL :: News - Reality Check

    Reality Check

    How are your tax dollars being spent? Reality Check tracks whether local, state and federal governments or any groups are using your money wisely...or wasting it.
  • KTVL :: News - Your View

    Your View

    When you see news, share it with us. Your View is the perfect place to share the video and photos you capture your town.
  • KTVL :: News - Closings & Delays

    Closings & Delays

    Check here for closures and delays.
  • KTVL :: News - To Your Health

    To Your Health

    Dr. Dan, Monday KTVL News10 at 5 answers your health questions and discusses the latest developments in medecine. If you have questions, find the e-mail address and mailing address at ktvl.com.
  • KTVL :: News - Crime Stoppers

    Crime Stoppers

    Crime Stoppers, Medford, Southern Oregon's answer to crime at ktvl.com. Find a police report of the active case, descriptons of suspects, vehicle information, rewards.

  • KTVL :: News - Links from Our Broadcast

    Links from Our Broadcast

    Links and numbers from our newscasts at KTVL News10, Medford, Southern Oregon's news source. Relevant links to research topics of interest or to contact organizations.

  • KTVL :: News - Safety Links

    Safety Links

    Safety - links and numbers at ktvl.com. Emergency preparedness plans for Curry, Jackson, and Josephine counties' citizens. Links to California and Oregon Emergency Management Offices, National Safety Council, ...
  • KTVL :: News - Voting Links

    Voting Links

    Links to websites full of information and background material, as well as sites that help you take action.
  • KTVL :: News - Local Links

    Local Links

    Local links for Medford, Southern Oregon and Northern California. Community links for Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, Lake and Siskiyou Counties, schools, cities, chambers of commerce, Rogue Valley ...

more »

Tonight on KTVL

12:00pm:   Golf:
  3:00pm:  (various)
  5:00pm:  The Good Wife (R)
  6:00pm:  News10 at 6pm
  6:30pm:  CBS Evening News
  7:00pm:  Monopoly Millionaires' Club
  8:00pm:  (drama) (R)
  9:00pm:  (drama) (R)
10:00pm:  48 Hours
11:00pm:  News10 at 11pm
11:30pm:  Ring of Honor
12:30am:  Outdoorsman with Buck McNeely

Complete Schedule »