More firefighters were called in Friday to help contain a wildfire burning northwest of Tok along the Alaska Highway.
There are now more than 200 firefighters working on the North Robertson Fire, which was reported as a small blaze late Thursday morning but had grown to approximately 1,000 acres as of Friday afternoon, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry. The fire is burning in black spruce about 30 miles northwest of Tok. It is approximately 2 miles west of the Alaska Highway near milepost 1350.
The highway remains open but smoke is visible from the road. Motorists in the area should use caution and be on the lookout for firefighting equipment and firefighters on the road.
The fire, estimated at 800 acres on Thursday night, was not nearly as active on Friday and did not show significant growth as of late Friday afternoon, in part due to the work firefighters are doing on the ground and water drops by aircraft. Mother Nature is also assisting by pushing the fire and smoke southwest away from the Alaska Highway and toward the Robertson River, about 2 miles south of the fire.
Management of the fire transitioned to a Type 3 team at 8 a.m. on Friday as more resources were assigned. Three more 20-person crews from the Alaska Division of Forestry, BLM Alaska Fire Service and U.S. Forest Service arrived on Friday to bolster the six crews already in place. All nine crews working on the fire are from Alaska.
Crews are focusing their efforts on cutting saw line between lakes on the east and west flanks of the fire to keep the blaze contained within retardant lines put in place by air tankers on Thursday. Two fixed-wing, water-scooping aircraft and a helicopter spent most of the day Friday making strategic water drops on active parts of the fire to compliment the efforts of firefighters on the ground.
A structure protection group is working to identify any structures in the area that could be threatened by the fire. There are some homes and recreational cabins to the north and west of the fire but the closest structures are about 2 miles away. No structures are immediately threatened by the fire, according to fire managers.
There is a temporary flight restriction in place over the fire and pilots should check with the Federal Aviation Administration before flying in the area. More information on the TFR is available at http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.
The fire was reported late Thursday morning by passing motorists on the Alaska Highway. The Alaska Division of Forestry quickly responded with aircraft to drop retardant and water on the fire while crews were mobilized.
Despite the aggressive, initial aerial assault, the fire grew quickly throughout the day, fueled by black spruce and warm, dry conditions. It was estimated at 800 acres late Thursday night.
The fire is believed to be human caused and is under investigation.