Alaska wildland fire roundup for June 14
1:00 p.m.- As expected, a high-pressure ridge that is bringing hotter, drier conditions across Alaska is also producing more fire activity around the state.
Two hot spots were found in the remnants of the 25,260-acre Bogus Creek Fire in southwest Alaska during an infrared flight on Saturday. A helitack load that was prepositioned in Aniak was dispatched to respond. After the helicopter dropped off firefighters to extinguish the hot spots, the pilot then flew over the perimeter of the nearby Whitefish Lake 1 Fire to check for smoke.
The flight turned up a small flare-up on the perimeter of that fire and the firefighters that had been dropped off on the Bogus Creek Fire hot spots were retrieved to work the Whitefish Lake area with assistance from the helicopter doing bucket work. The fire increased by 12 acres as a result. The Whitefish Lake 1 Fire is now listed at 14,836 acres.
The Chena Interagency Hotshot Crew will fly to McGrath today to work on the fire found Saturday and the Kalskag Type 2 Crew was also brought on Sunday to deal with any other hot spots that pop up as a result of the dry, hot conditions. Additional air and ground resources have been ordered in anticipation of other potential fire activity.
Both the Bogus Creek and Whitefish Lake 1 fires were started by lightning on May 31 and several crews and aircraft spent more than a week suppressing the two large tundra fires southwest of Aniak in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.
Human-caused fires dominated the list of six new fires reported Saturday. A Kenai forestry fire prevention officer investigating smoke on Funny River Road discovered a very large burn pile. The landowner’s burn permit had been called in, but the oversized burn pile exceeded permit requirements. The pile was 18-feet long, 8-feet wide and 6-feet high, made of logs 16-24 inches in diameter. A forestry engine was called in to contain and control the .3-acre Wik Circle Fire. It is in monitor status.
Also on the Kenai, forestry responded to a growing grass fire off of the Kenai Spur Highway. Prevention, two engines and helitack responded from Soldotna for the .1-acre Milepost 22 Kenai Spur Highway Fire. It was suppressed and placed into monitor status.
Palmer 911 was alerted to a grass fire caused by a downed power line surrounded by wood chips along the railroad tracks in Big Lake. Forestry responded to find a 5-feet by 5-feet smoldering grass fire. Once Matanuska Electric Association deactivated the line, firefighters extinguished the West Railroad Track fire and called it out.
Delta area forestry dispatched two engines to a small debris burn creeping into the grass off the Richardson Highway between Big Delta and Delta Junction. Firefighters pulled the pile apart and put out the 270.5 Richardson Fire. It was declared out and returned to the landowner’s control.
A Tok resident called to report a fire Saturday morning. A forestry prevention officer along with the TCC Type 2 Crew responded to find a 3-feet by 3-feet fire burning in deep duff. Firefighters contained, controlled and declared the Tok RV Village Fire out.
During a flight in support of the Chisana River 2 Fire, a helicopter discovered a .25-acre black spot on Tribal lands 11 miles south of Northway. The lightning caused Mundthag Lake was declared a natural out.
All remaining personnel and aircraft were demobilized Saturday from the 2,902-acre Seventymile Fire, north of Eagle, and the 10-acre Standard Creek Fire, west of Fairbanks. The Seventymile has been placed into monitor status and Standard Creek has been declared out.
Fire activity on the 8,447-acre Chisana River 2 Fire burning in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, meanwhile, was moderate on Saturday after two days of wetting rains.
The lightning-caused fire was reported on June 9 and is burning about 20 miles south of the Alaska Highway and approximately 25 miles west of the border.
Numerous smokes were observed along the western and southern flanks of the fire on Saturday, including many along the perimeter with active flames visible. However, north winds are blowing the fire away from any structures or values of concern.
Personnel on Saturday installed sprinkler kits for structure protection on three remote, permitted cabins in the park and preserve that are threatened by the fire. Those cabins are the King City Cabin, the Stuver Creek Cabin and Upper Stuver Cabin. Protection measures have also been put in place for an administrative cabin on the Tetlin Refuge about seven miles north of the fire.
A National Park Service helicopter assisted with delivery and installation of a repeater on Saturday for improved communication.
The plan for today is to install another remote automated weather station, continue structure protection and monitor the growth and direction of fire.
Smoke from the fire s 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.
The fire is located in a limited protection area, which allows land managers to let the fire take its natural course.In the boreal ecosystem of Interior Alaska, fire is an essential process that restores ecosystem health and helps to maintain species diversity. In the northeastern portion of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, these fires have created a healthy mosaic of burned area, which has promoted species diversity. Of note was the 46,638 acre Chisana River Fire in 2013. That fire area buffers the eastern side of the Chisana River, where the Chisana 2 River fire is currently burning.
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 monitor the fire. The Division of Forestry will take suppression action if structures and other values at risk identified by NPS and USFWS become threatened.