4:30 p.m. — A wildfire burning in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in the eastern interior of Alaska is now estimated at 9,000 acres.
The lightning-caused fire was reported to the Alaska Division of Forestry office in Tok on Tuesday afternoon by personnel at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. It is burning approximately 25 miles west of the Canadian border and about 20 miles south of the Alaska Highway border crossing.
Smoke is visible from the highway but the road remains open and there has been no interference with traffic and none is expected at this time.
The fire is currently burning in a limited protection area and there have been no suppression efforts taken. At this point, land managers have opted to let the fire take its natural course, as fire is a natural process in the boreal ecosystem of Interior Alaska and restores ecosystem health and helps to maintain species diversity in the forest.
The fire is growing on all sides but is largely spreading to the north due to south winds. Some precipitation is expected on the fire today but with warm, dry weather predicted the next week large fire growth is predicted.
While no structures of value are immediately threatened, structure protection measures have been put in place for the Stuver Lake Cabin, a Tetlin Refuge administrative cabin about seven miles north of the fire. Three other cabins on National Park Service land – the King City Cabin, the Stuver Creek Cabin and Upper Stuver Cabin – have also been identified for protection measures.
As the protecting agency for the area, the state Division of Forestry office in Tok is working closely with interagency managers from the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs to closely monitor the fire. The Division of Forestry will take action if structures and other values at risk identified by NPS and USFWS are threatened.
Naturally-caused wildfires have burned in the northeastern portion of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in the past and the fire is sandwiched on the east and west by old burn areas.