Cooler temperatures, rain help BLM AFS efforts on northern fires

8 p.m., July 17, 2016 – Cooler temperatures and rains helped moderate fires along the Yukon River corridor and in western Alaska, allowing the BLM Alaska Fire Service  to pull people from two fires. No new fires popped up in the BLM AFS fire management areas that cover the upper half of the state. Of the 181 active fires in Alaska, only 12 were staffed Sunday evening. Four of these fires fall within the BLM AFS Tanana and Galena fire management zones as people demobilized from the Starvation Creek Fire (#527) near Minto and the Mountain Village Dump fire (#248). In addition, BLM AFS fire officials don’t believe fires have increased much in size unlike earlier this week where they gained substantial ground thanks to hot, dry and windy conditions. These conditions subsided as the cold front moved down from the Northwest Arctic starting Friday and settled over northern half of the state.

A load of eight smokejumpers are divided between the Telegraph (#532) and the Telegraph 2 (#534) fires that are one mile apart and about 3.5 miles north of Kokrine Hills Bible Camp. The smokejumpers, with the aid of two water-scooping Fire Bosses gained the upper hand on the fires Saturday, and continue to work on completing control lines around the fires. The Telegraph fire was spotted at 11:04 a.m. Saturday and was reported as backing and creeping in state lands in a full protection area. Telegraph 2 was spotted at 12:49 p.m. Thursday burning in a full protection area on state land.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Lakes Fire (#520) grew to 750 acres yesterday and was threatening several fish camps and cabins along the south bank of the Yukon River about eight miles northwest of Rampart. Rains have fallen on the area off and on throughout the day and heavily for five hours Sunday afternoon. Eleven people continue with structure protection measures after the fire that got as close as 300 yards of one of the cabins on Saturday. The fire was pushed by strong winds out of the west and burning in tundra scattered with spruce trees. Eight smokejumpers parachuted near the fire Saturday and were joined by another smokejumper and two fire specialists that launched a boat at the Yukon River bridge on the Dalton Highway. This fire was spotted Friday night, but because it was burning in a limited protection area and available initial attack firefighting resources were busy on other fires in Alaska, the BLM AFS is concentrating on protecting the camps and cabins.

Eight BLM AFS smokejumpers finished mopping up the Starvation Creek Fire (#527) burning north of the Elliott Highway near Minto Sunday evening. The fire was spotted by an agency aircraft at 7:20 p.m. Friday while it was flying a detection flight in the BLM AFS’s Tanana Management Zone north of Fairbanks. It was burning about a mile east of a cabin and about 13 miles north of Minto. The smokejumpers weren’t able to parachute near the fire, but landed a few miles away and were shuttled to the fire by helicopter. Smokejumpers switched to mopping up the fire after successfully catching it Friday. The Fire Boss airplanes dropped water on Saturday to help the smokejumpers put out hot spots within the fire perimeter.

These four fires fall within the BLM AFS Tanana Management Zone. The other BLM AFS staffed fires fall within the Galena Zone that covers the western part of the state north of Pilot Station.

The Mauneluk River 2 fire (#386), burning 25 miles north of Kobuk, got about 0.2 of rain Saturday as four smokejumpers continue to work on bolstering protection around a private lodge and other buildings at nearby Narvak Lake. The fire grew from 1,355 to 35,000 acres and pushed nine miles on Thursday and Friday to get within a mile of the lodge thanks to recent record high temperatures, low humidity and winds. The fire was spotted by an Alaska Fire Service fire detection aircraft on July 02 after lightning started the fire on state lands in a limited protection area northwest of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

The 20-person Alaska Division of Forestry Pioneer Peak Interagency Hotshots finished up work today on a fire that spread from burning debris at the Mountain Village dump to the surrounding tundra, first on June 7, then once again on July 3. Smokejumpers, the water scooping Fire Bosses and local residents initially attacked the Mountain Village Dump fire (#248) and successfully deemed under control on June 11. Eight smokejumpers returned to the village when another debris burn pile escaped the dump on July 3. A village excavator and dozer also worked on the fire. Pioneer Peak and six of the smokejumpers spent many days diligently working to find hot spots that are burning deep in peat. Six of the smokejumpers demobilized on July 14, and the remaining two demobilized on July 17. The Pioneer Peak crew flew out Sunday night. The fire was estimated to have burned 73 acres and got within a mile of the village.

For more information, contact Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS public affairs specialist at eipsen@blm.gov or (907)356-5511.

###

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.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: