Four Fire Boss water-scooping planes stand-by in Gulkana. Photo: Carrie Hale, Alaska Division of Forestry
Copper Center, AK: Rain continues to fall over the Steamboat Creek Fire and the Kennicott Valley. In the last 24 hours the fire area has received 0.22 inches of rain and 1.10 inches of rain since July 21st when the portable Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) was installed to monitor fire weather. Fire resources and a medium sized helicopter remain ready and available to monitor the fire. If visibility allows, a reconnaissance flight will occur this afternoon to map the perimeter and observe any remaining fire activity. The fire is estimated at 20,249 acres.
Fire in the boreal forest of Alaska is an essential process that restores ecosystem health and helps to maintain species diversity. Over time, both plants and wildlife have become resilient to fire-adapted ecosystems. Both black and white spruce depend on intense ground fire to clear organic layers, thereby exposing fertile seedbeds. Moreover, black spruce partially depends on fire because its seeds are ready for germination at the peak of the Alaskan interior fire season. Seeds are released from their cone when their semi-serotinous cones are burned by a canopy fire.
Fire also plays a key role in the regulation of the permafrost table. Without routine fires, organic matter accumulates like a thick blanket, insulating and increasing the cold permafrost table. An increase and rise in this table can reduce ecosystem productivity and diversity of vegetation communities, wildlife habitat, and wildlife. Fire, the agent of change, removes some of the insulating organic matter, elicits a warming of the soil, and maintains & rejuvenates these systems.
For more information on the Steamboat Creek Fire please visit: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4867/