Alaska wildland fire roundup for Saturday, June 13
1:00 p.m. —With the return of hot, dry weather, fire danger across most of Alaska is expected to ramp up again starting this weekend following two weeks of unseasonably cool, wet conditions. A high-pressure ridge will build over mainland Alaska starting today and is forecast to last through at least the middle of next week, causing temperatures to rise rapidly and relative humidities to fall. The new weather system has fire managers on alert for increasing fire potential across the state.
Cool, damp weather helped keep a large wildfire burning near the Alaska/Canada border in check on Friday but that could change with a change in weather.
There was minimal activity Friday on the 8.466-acre Chisana River 2 Fire burning about 20 miles south of the Alaska Highway and approximately 25 miles west of the border. The fire actually shrank in size by more than 500 acres as a result of better mapping on Friday. It was previously estimated at 9,000 acres.
Fire managers reported only a few smokes on the fire Saturday morning and precipitation had fallen on parts of the fire.
Smoke is visible from the Alaska Highway but the road remains open. There has been no fire-related impact on traffic and none is expected at this time.
A high-pressure ridge will build over Alaska starting today, causing temperatures to rise rapidly and the relative humidity to drop, increasing the potential for fire growth. Temperatures are expected to climb into the 70s or low 80s and fire managers expect more fire activity as a result of the warmer, drier weather.
The lightning-caused fire was reported on June 9 and is burning in both the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge south of Tok.
The fire is located in a limited protection area and there have been no suppression efforts taken as a result. 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.
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. Personnel will also start structure protection today on three additional cabins in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve – the King City Cabin, the Stuver Creek Cabin and Upper Stuver Cabin.
Fire managers are continuing to monitor the fire for growth and direction of spread. Using a National Park Service helicopter, personnel installed one remote automated weather station (RAWS) on Friday and performed maintenance on another RAWS station. The plan today is to place a repeater in operation on Wellesely Mountain to improve communications and install one more RAWS station.
As the protection 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. A 2013 fire on the east side of the Chisana River in the same area, the Chisana River Fire, burned 46,637.5 acres. The Chisana River 2 Fire is burning on the west side of the river.
Good Samaritans assisted with extinguishing one of two new fires reported on Friday. Several callers reported seeing a grass fire on the south side of the Sterling Highway at milepost 72.5. By the time Alaska Division of Forestry and Central Emergency Services responded, passers-by had suppressed the fire using their water bottles. Once fire personnel located where the 3’x3’ grass fire had been, they secured the area and placed the Hidden Fire into monitor status.
Fairbanks Division of Forestry along with the University Fire Department were called to an unattended campfire in the woods behind the West Farmers Loop Transfer Site. The fire had escaped and was smoldering in hardwoods and black spruce. Firefighters extinguished and contained the Cordwood Fire keeping it to .1 of an acre.
Fire personnel on the Seventymile Fire, 10 miles northwest of Eagle, mopped up 15 hot spots discovered Friday on the southwest perimeter by an infrared reconnaissance flight. The fire is 100% contained at 2,902 acres. The remaining personnel plan to complete demobilization of the fire this weekend.
Backhaul operations continue on the Standard Creek Fire approximately 15 miles west of Fairbanks. The Fairbanks #1 Type 2 Crew will finish mopping up the 10-acre fire area that was reported on June 8 and plan to demob this weekend.
No smoke has been observed for several days on the Cummings Road Fire, about 30 miles southwest of Delta Junction. All of the remaining supplies and equipment have been removed from the 37-acre fire that was listed as controlled on June 6. Rehabilitation of the access road is continuing.
The Seldovia Volunteer Fire Department responded to two separate escaped campfires on Thursday evening. The East Side Beach Fire caught a single tree on fire and the Camel Rock Fire was burning in a mixture of needle litter, duff and brush. Firefighters extinguished both fires and will monitor the areas.