3:25 p.m., July 27, 2016 – Fire season briefly bumped up yesterday, mostly in a small part of northern Alaska. There were two new fires and BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers were sent to two older fires that increased in size due to lingering dry conditions and wind. The activity is short lived due to rains that fell on some of the fires with more expected in the upcoming days as an Arctic trough will drop down, bringing colder temperatures and precipitation to the west coast, northwest and western and central Interior by Friday.
Northeastern Alaska continues to be the warmest and driest part of the state. Chalkyitsik reported the high yesterday with a temperature of 80 degrees. While the rest of the state is expected to get wetting rains by the end of the weekend, the northeastern corner will probably miss out on most of the rain. A 150-acre fire was spotted yesterday during a detection flight in the Upper Yukon fire protection zone about 17 miles west of the Canadian border and 8-1/2 miles north of the Yukon River. Since it didn’t appear the Nation Creek Fire (#570) was actively burning and it wasn’t threatening any structures, the fire was placed on monitor status. The other new fire, the North Fork Swift River Fire (#569) was reported yesterday by a private pilot flying in southwest Alaska. It was estimated at 3-5 acres with no visible fire activity burning in an Alaska Division of Forestry protection area 25 miles northeast of Lime Village. Because it’s burning in a limited protection area and there are no structures threatened, it was put in monitor status.
Otherwise, active fires in the upper Koyukuk and Kobuk valleys made runs due to poor relative humidity recoveries overnight and warm, dry weather.
During a surveillance flight Tuesday, BLM AFS Galena Zone personnel spotted a 6,000 foot column of smoke from the High Creek Fire (#326) as the fire advanced 1-2 miles north toward Clear Creek. The fire was approximately a half mile from Clear Creek and within 1.2 miles of a BLM cabin. It was also burning 1-1/2 miles east of the Hogatza River Mine. By the time a load of eight smokejumpers dropped in at the cabin around 7:30 p.m., the fire was less than a mile away. Smokejumpers were working on protecting the cabin from the fire that was an estimated 9,842 acres. This fire is burning 34 miles west of Hughes and on the opposite side of the Koyukuk River. This lightning-caused fire has been burning in a limited protection area since June 26.
Another load of smokejumpers went to the Hogatza River Fire (#337), which is one of seven fires that make up the Alatna Complex, after it was reported to be burning toward an allotment Tuesday. The smokejumpers were tasked with setting up protection for the allotment and structures along the river. Due to forecasted rain, they finish up work and demobilize from the fire on Friday. This fire is estimated at about 337 acres and creeping in a limited protection area. The status remains unchanged for the other fires within this complex that is burning on the west side of the Koyukuk River from Allakaket.
There are two BLM AFS personnel on the Iniakuk Lake Fire (#320) that has been burning about 40 miles west of Bettles since June 25. The fire was reported about a mile from the Iniakuk Lake lodge and flanking uphill toward a group of hardwood trees that could slow its progress to the north. BLM AFS has actively worked on this fire, mostly providing protection for the allotments, cabins and lodge that sit on the edge of the lake after a thundercell moved over the area on July 27 and blew the fire out of its containment lines. At one point, there were as many as 19 people working on the ground and multiple aircraft dropping water on the fire.
Of the 145 active fires burning across Alaska, only six are staffed. In addition to the three already mentioned the Tok River Fire (#420), which is scheduled to demobilize its remaining people today; the Steamboat Creek Fire (#510) burning near McCarthy; and the McHugh Fire (#541) burning south of Anchorage.
As of yesterday, there were a total of 486,588 acres burned from 515 fires reported so far this year. 287 of those fires were suspected to be human-caused while 228 were deemed lightning-caused. In a normal year for Alaska, somewhere between 1-2 million acres burn in wildland fires. Last year, 5.1 acres burned, which is the second-highest number for Alaska.
For more information, contact Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS public affairs specialist at email@example.com, (907)356-5511 or cell (907)388-2159.