June 1, 2014 2 p.m.
(Fairbanks, AK) – Alaska experienced a rare weather phenomenon on Saturday, as the passage of a violent cold front brought prolonged southerly winds nearly statewide. Along with the passing of the front came a significant drop in relative humidity. Winds continued gusting to 40 mph or higher through late Saturday night and some areas in eastern Alaska continue to have gusty winds today. Temperatures plummeted into the 40’s in many locations.
Combined with dry fuels and low humidity, this wind event resulted in many fire starts in the Fairbanks, Mat-Su, Delta and Tok areas. Twenty-three new fires were reported over the course of the day across the State of Alaska’s protection area, of which 15 were in Fairbanks Forestry’s protection area.
Most of the new fire activity resulted from trees blowing over onto power lines. Fire crews were hindered by the sheer number of incidents, the wind storm itself, and by having to wait for GVEA crews to arrive and de-energize the lines so that the fires could be more safely attacked. In the case of one fire, a helicopter was unable to land to discharge the Helitack crew due to high winds. Engines and ground crews were able to reach the fire from the road system and suppressed it.
Fairbanks Area Forestry responded to 4 fires reported along the Parks Hwy from Ester to Anderson.
There were 11 new fires closer to Fairbanks, including multiple starts at Cripple Creek, Gilmore/Engineer Creek, Badger Road and Chena Hot Springs Road. Forestry crews in Delta responded to two new starts, Tok responded to four and Mat-Su two.
With help from local fire departments and aircraft, fire crews were able to control all the reported new fire starts. Considering the windy conditions, it is a tribute to these hardworking firefighters that none of the new local fires were able to grow to more than an acre or two in size.
There are Red Flag Warnings out for Fairbanks, Deltana – Tanana Flats, the Eastern Alaska Range and the Upper Tanana Valley and the Fortymile Country today, for strong winds. By Monday, the winds should drop off and temperatures should rise again. However, humidities will remain low. By Tuesday, warmer and drier weather will overtake the state once again.
Burn Suspensions are in effect Sunday for the greater Fairbanks area, Delta, Valdez and Copper River areas, Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island. Check online for current suspensions: http://forestry.alaska.gov/burn/index.cfm?fuseaction=permits.doShowChooseFirearea