June 26, 2016 – The BLM Alaska Fire Service was busy with reports of new fires Sunday after approximately 18,000 lightning strikes were recorded throughout Alaska in the past two days. By 10 p.m. Sunday, there were an estimated 37 new fires reported throughout the state including a few false alarms. Of that number, 24 were within BLM AFS protection zones that mostly cover the northern half of the state. Initial attack suppression efforts are underway on several fires with more discoveries anticipated Monday. Five loads of smokejumpers were dispatched to five different fires at different times Sunday. This included one load of eight that came off of a fire the Alaska Division of Forestry was working 25 miles north of Fairbanks Saturday. These smokejumpers made it back to Fairbanks Sunday before they were sent out back out to the area, this time to another DOF fire near Chatanika. Another four came off of DOF’s Tetlin River fire, while four remain to help coordinate mop-up efforts. A load of seven smokejumpers spotted another fire while en route to a fire reported near the Bob Johnson Lake west of Wiseman Sunday evening. Both the smoke that was spotted and the reported fire were false alarms.
Otherwise, most of the new fires were reported in limited protection areas and are being monitored at this point. Here are the new BLM AFS fires that were reported and were staffed Sunday:
Fire 327, First Creek Fire and Fire 326, High Creek Fire – Eight smokejumpers and the two larger water-scooping CL-415 airplanes worked two fires in close proximity to each other near the Hogatza Mine. The fires were reported as burning through black spruce near the mine that is located approximately nine miles north of the Koyukuk River before it winds its way down to Huslia. The larger of the two fires, the High Creek Fire, was reported at 20 acres with continuous black spruce all the way to the mine that was three miles to the north. The smokejumpers and water scoopers were busy Sunday with suppression efforts and constructing protection measures in case the fire can’t be caught.
Fire 323, Bergman Creek – The four smaller water-scooping Fire Boss airplanes worked this fire exclusively Sunday to help smokejumpers’ suppression efforts on the ground. This fire was reported by a resident in nearby Allakaket. More crews are expected to join the suppression efforts on Monday.
Fire 320, Iniakuk Lake – This fire was reported by a local resident via Brooks Range Aviation in Bettles. A ridge separated the fire from a cluster of structures about a mile away, including the Iniakuk Lake lodge, which sits on the east side of the lake. The fire was reported to be about 15 acres and burning 43 miles west of Bettles. Eight smokejumpers were deployed to the fire and, with the help of intermittent storms, successfully secured the perimeter. They were expected to transition to nearby Bettles tonight.
Not staffed, but of interest:
Fire 325, Dulbi Flats – Early Sunday morning, several Huslia residents reported seeing smoke burning northeast of the village. The fire is burning approximately 21 miles northeast of Huslia. It is also burning 14 miles north on the opposite side of the Koyukuk River from Fires 326 and 327. There are several allotments nearby. The fire was reportedly burning in a northeast direction and is backing to the southeast at a moderate rate of speed with some running and group torching spotted. A Galena Zone detection plane flew over the fire deemed that no structures were threatened. At last report, the fire was estimated at 5,000 acres and was burning aggressively toward the east.
More updates will be available tomorrow.
For more information, contact Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS public affairs specialist at (907)356-5511 or (907)388-2159 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was updated to correct information about the Bergman Creek and the Dulbi Flats fires.