July 14, 9:45 p.m. – A lightning-caused wildfire threatening multiple cabins on the Salcha River is now estimated at 175 acres but the intensity of the fire has diminished due to cloud cover and higher relative humidity as a result of rain showers in the area, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Two air tankers, two water-scooping aircraft and multiple helicopters were also effective in helping slow the spread of the Mid Salcha Fire with repeated retardant and water drops. Strong south winds that pushed the fire toward the river earlier in the evening also calmed down and the wind is now out of the west.
The fire is located about 15 air miles upriver from the Richardson Highway. It is one-half mile south of the river and 3 miles north of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
A temporary flight restriction has been placed over the fire and pilots should avoid flying in the area. To check on specifics of the TFR, pilots should go to http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.
The Salcha River is a home to dozens of recreational cabins and the fire had burned to within one-quarter mile of some cabins in the initial stages. Eight smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service were working to protect cabins threatened by the fire. The 20-person Chena Interagency Hotshot Crew is also en route to the fire and will be ferried in by helicopter to join the suppression effort.
Water-and retardant dropping aircraft focused their efforts on the north and east flanks of the fire to prevent it from encroaching on several cabins along the south bank of the river.
In addition to protecting structures, fire managers were focusing on keeping the fire south of the Salcha River and north of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The fire was reported at approximately 4:20 p.m. and had grown to about 20 acres by 5:10 p.m. However, strong winds as a result of thunderstorms that moved through the area increased fire activity and the fire was estimated at 100 acres by 6 p.m.
A staging area has been set up at milepost 314 of the Richardson Highway to mobilize supplies and equipment for firefighters. Boats are being hired to transport firefighters and haul supplies.