When it comes to big fires, 2015 has room to grow

While Alaska is on pace to break the record for the largest fire season on record in terms of acreage burned, it remains to be seen if any of the fires currently burning will go down as one of the biggest in Alaska history.
The biggest fire so far this season is the 328,957-acre Big Creek Two Fire south of the Yukon River near Ruby. But that doesn’t even come close to breaking into the top 20 largest fires of all time.
The biggest fire ever recorded in Alaska history is the 1.25-million-acre Ruby Fire in 1940, according to statistics from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks. It is one of three fires estimated at 1 million acres or more in Alaska dating back to 1939. The other two are the 1,161,200-acre Kateel River #5 Fire in 1957 and the 1,000,000-acre Unalakleet Fire in 1941.
There are three fires in the top 20 largest fires of all time from 2004 – the 537,627-acre Boundary Fire at No. 11; the 483,280-acre Dall City Fire at No. 17; and the 463,994-acre Billy Creek Fire at No. 20.

A photo of the 537,627-acre Boundary Fire north of Fairbanks in 2004, which ranks No. 11 on the all-time list of Alaska's largest wildfires.

A photo of the 537,627-acre Boundary Fire north of Fairbanks in 2004, which ranks No. 11 on the all-time list of Alaska’s largest wildfires.

There are also three fires from the 1940 fire season on the list, all ranked in the top eight. In addition to the 1.25-million-acre Ruby Fire at No. 1, there was the 750,000-acrre Stony River Fire at No. 6 and the 640,000-acre Fort Yukon Fire at No. 8. Those three fires accounted for more than 2.5 million of the 4.5 million acres that burned in 1940, which ranks No. 6 all time in terms of largest fire seasons on record.
So far this season, there are nine fires in Alaska that are estimated at more than 100,000 acres and 63 fires estimated at more than 20,000 acres. Some of the smaller fires have been consumed by larger ones, such the Big Creek Two Fire, which is fairly common in big fire years when you have multiple fires burning in the same vicinity.
Ironically, the biggest fires in Alaska often are overlooked because they are burn in Limited suppression areas where there is nothing threatened by the fire and they are left to burn, which is how they get so big. That’s the case with the 10 biggest fires in Alaska this year, none of which have received much attention from firefighters or the public.
Largest Wildires in Alaska History
1. Ruby Fire – 1,250,000 acres -1940 – started June 18
2. Kateel River #5 Fire – 1,161,200 acres – 1957 – started June 10
3. Unalakleet Fire – 1,000,000 acres – 1941 – start date unknown
4. Little Black River Fire – 892,900 acres – 1950 – started May 24
5. Holanada Creek Fire – 803,470 acres – 1969 – started June 21
6. Stony River Fire – 750,000 acres – 1940 – started June 5
7. Shageluk East Fire – 644,389 acres – 1957 – started July 15
8. Fort Yukon – 640,000 acres – 1940 – started June 14
9. Inowak Fire – 606,945 acres – 1997 – started June 25
10. Name Unknown – 541,231 acres – 1988 – started on June 11
Largest fires in 2015
1. Big Creek Two Fire – 328,957 acres
2. Bering Creek Fire – 233,678 acres
3. Sushgitit Hills Fire – 209,185 acres
4. Holtnakatna Fire – 198,133 acres
5. Big Mud River 1 Fire – 147,781 acres
6. Blazo Fire – 112,434 acres
7. Sea Fire – 109,063 acres
8. Iditarod River – 104,183 acres
9. Torment Creek Fire – 100,110 acres
10. Hay Slough Fire – 89,747 acres

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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