BLM AFS sees 21 new fires Thursday

Map of Alaska fire management zones. BLM Alaska Fire Service zones are in yellow.

Map of Alaska fire management zones. BLM Alaska Fire Service zones are in yellow.

July 15, 2016 – For the second day in a row, there were more than 40 new fires in Alaska, most of them burning in a limited protection area in remote parts of the state. BLM Alaska Fire Service will launch detection flights throughout much of the zones that make up the upper half of Alaska, looking for new starts from the 18,500 lightning strikes recording yesterday, and sizing up other fires that gained ground due to strong westerly winds. Most of the fires are not near any known areas of values and are being monitored by BLM AFS personnel. However, there were nine staffed fires including three within BLM AFS management zones. The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center will continue to balance the resource needs of fires already burning and the prospect of more fires that may pop up in the upcoming few days.

In addition, smoke drifting to Central this morning is from fires burning more than 100 miles west near Allakaket. The Yukon Flats may also see smoke from fires in the Alatna Complex and burning near Bettles that gained considerable ground due to winds that also pushed the smoke to the east. Possible smoke in the Bettles area may become of concern by tomorrow for aviation that is working on fires nearby and in the Alatna Complex.

A cold front will be moving down from the Northwest Arctic in upcoming days, bringing colder temperatures, but pushing winds in front of it as it heads south. While the cold front will bring cooler temperatures, it will weaken as it moves south. Clouds and higher relative humidity levels will accompany this cold front, but there is expected to be little rain. Instead, there will be wind gusts of 20-30 mph which will fuel fire behavior.

Here’s a run down of Thursday’s activity in BLM Alaska Fire Service protection areas:

 Galena Zone

Fifteen new fires:

Pilot Mountain (#490) – four BLM AFS smokejumpers responded to protect an antenna on Pilot Mountain adjacent to Galena. This lightening-caused fire was reported at 9:34 p.m. burning on state lands in a limited protection area. It was reported at a tenth of an acre, but was 100 percent active with single tree torching and a high rate of spread uphill toward the antenna. The fire was burning through a mixture of black spruce and hardwoods and was half way up a slope when it was spotted. There was a thunder cell in the area, which delayed the smokejumper’s response. Instead, the water-scooper Fire Boss airplanes were used for about an hour until weather conditions settled enough to allow smokejumpers to get to the fire. The smokejumpers caught the fire and plan on returning to Galena today in the likelihood they’re needed elsewhere as new fires are discovered.

Fish River (491) – the White Mountain Village Public Safety Officer reported this fire at 9:40 p.m. It was reported burning near the Fish River approximately eight miles northwest of White Mountain and headed toward Council, which is five to six miles away and on the other side of a river. Locals suppressed the fire using shoves and an assortment of tool to prevent the fire from burning a nearby cabin. However, there were reports of the fire spotting in the alders into the tundra. The fire is burning on White Mountain Village Corporation land in a special modified protection area. Galena zone personnel will closely monitor the situation and respond if needed and as resources and fire activity allow. This is the only new fire for BLM AFS that is suspected to be human caused.

Soonkakat River (#467) – reported at 4:46 p.m. at 30 acres and 70 percent active in a limited protection area on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land. It’s reported as backing to the south toward a stream and was burning in black spruce with isolated torching and small runs. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Rodo River (#472) – reported at 5:27 p.m. at two acres with an 80 percent active perimeter burning through state land in a modified protection area. The fire behavior was backing with isolated torching and slow growth to the east. It’s burning in black and white spruce. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Old Woman River (#475) – reported at 5:48 p.m. as five acres and burning on BLM land in a limited protection area. Fire behavior was backing and creeping with flame lengths at 2-3 feet. It’s burning in tundra with an occasional mixture of hardwoods and black white spruce. There were isolate storms in the area with cloud cover over 40 percent of the fire. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Unalakleet (#476) – fire was reported at 5:48 p.m. burning on BLM land in a limited protection area. The fire was reported at eight acres and was active on all sides of the fire with some backing and isolated torching. Flame lengths were 2-3 feet with slow growth to the west. It’s burning in tundra with occasional stands of spruce. There were light rains and clouds over half of the fire area. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Blackburn Hills (#478) – fire was reported at 5:55 p.m. and burning on BLM land in a modified protection area. The fire was reported at four acres with 84 percent active perimeter. It was backing and creeping with 1-2 foot flame lengths and a low rate of speed. It’s slowly burning through black and white spruce and tundra. There were light rains and clouds over half of the fire area. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

 

Honhosa River (#479) – fire was reported at 6:42 p.m. burning on BLM land in a limited protection area. It was estimated at eight acres with active fire throughout the perimeter. The fire is backing with isolated torching and some running with flam lengths of 6-9 feet. It was burning to the northeast in continuous white and black spruce. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Nulitna River (#480) – fire was reported at 7 p.m. burning on BLM lands in a limited protection area. It was spotted burning a single tree with a 10-foot-by-10-foot spot burn spot underneath. The fire was reported as creeping and not doing much on the ground. The area received isolated rain and some thundershowers in the area. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Kateel River 2 (#481) – fire was reported at 7:03 p.m. burning on BLM lands in a limited protection area. It was reported less than a quarter of an acre and smoldering. There were light rains in the area. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Huslia River (#482) – fire was reported at 7:10 p.m. burning on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in a limited protection area. The fire was reported as a quarter of an acre with a 100 percent active perimeter. It was creeping and smoldering with isolated torching as it headed north through tundra with black spruce. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

North Fork (#484) – fire was reported at 7:22 p.m. burning on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in a limited protection area. The fire was reported at a quarter of an acre with a 100 percent active perimeter. It was smoldering, backing and torching with flame lengths of 2-4 feet. It was moving north and burning through black and white spruce and tundra. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

South Fork (#485) – fire was reported at 7:23 p.m. burning on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in a limited protection area. It was eight acres with a 100 percent active perimeter. It exhibited a range of fire behavior and even some isolated spotting up top 100 yards with flame lengths of 608 feet. The fire was pushed around by thunderstorms in the area and had a high rate of spread to the north. There was light rains and cloud cover over 50 percent of the fire. It’s burning close to an area burned last year. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Bonanza Creek (#496) – fire was reported at 10:47 p.m. burning on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in a limited protection area. It was reported at five acres and just south of the Pilot Mountain fire (#490). It was smoldering and creeping in tundra. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

Kinkaid Creek (#496) – fire was reported at 10:55 p.m. burning on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in a limited protection area. It was smaller than a quarter of an acre and only 20 percent active. It was slowly smoldering and creeping through mostly open tundra. No structures are threatened and fire was placed in monitor status.

 Tanana Zone

Two new Fires:

Blind River 2(#494) – reported at 10:30 p.m. at burning on state lands in a full protection area. It was reported at about three acres and was 100 percent active but burning within a fire scar from last year. Regardless, this is likely a lightning-caused fire and not a holdover from last year’s Blind River fire. There are no values at risk and will be monitored.

Paradise Fork (#477) – reported at 6:04 p.m. burning on BLM land in a limited protection area. There are no values at risk and will be monitored.

Other fires of concern:

Iniakuk Lake (#320) – This fire has been burning on state lands and in a limited protection area since June 25. The fire was running and spotting yesterday as the fire grew to 12,000 acres. Four BLM AFS smokejumpers were released from the fire. Instead, seven overhead personnel and the Division of Forestry’s Gannet Glacier Interagency Hotshot crew continue to strengthen fuel breaks and protection measures for allotments and structures on the edge of the lake that include a lodge. They working on burning a fuel break around an allotment on the east side of the lake.

Alatna Complex (399, 398, 364, 342, 337, 335, 323) – Ten people still remain on the complex that includes eight fires burning to the west of Alatna and Allakaket. The Hogatza River (#337) and the Hog Fire (#399), blew out to the east toward Alatna, gaining about 10 miles of ground. All fires are in monitor status and no values are threatened.

Upper Yukon Zone

12 Mile (#471) – fire was reported at 5:23 p.m. Thursday burning on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in a limited protection area near a mile south of milepost 85.5 of the Steese Highway at Twelvemile Summit. The fire was flown and reported as an acre with no activity. It wasn’t considered a threat to the highway and was put on monitor status.

 Chandalar River (#380) – this fire has been burning on the south side of the Chandalar River across from Venetie since June 29. The fire was active Thursday and grew to 1,800 acres, however, it is not considered an immediate threat to allotments in the area.

About BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (AFS) located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, provides wildland fire suppression services for over 244 million acres of Department of the Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska. In addition, AFS has other statewide responsibilities that include: interpretation of fire management policy; oversight of the BLM Alaska Aviation program; fuels management projects; and operating and maintaining advanced communication and computer systems such as the Alaska Lightning Detection System. AFS also maintains a National Incident Support Cache with a $10 million inventory. The Alaska Fire Service provides wildland fire suppression services for America’s “Last Frontier” on an interagency basis with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Military in Alaska.

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