Cloudier, wetter weather has reduced fire behavior on a wildfire burning along the Alaska Highway near Tok, allowing firefighters to increase containment from 10 to 40 percent, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
The North Robertson Fire, reported on June 1, is burning approximately 2 miles west of the highway near Milepost 1350. The fire is about 30 miles northwest of Tok and 2 miles north of the Robertson River.
The highway remains open but motorists in the area should use caution and be on the lookout for firefighting equipment and firefighters on the road.
The calmer fire behavior and reduced smoke on Saturday allowed fire managers to get a better map of the perimeter of the fire. The fire is now estimated at 832 acres, down from an earlier estimate of 1,000 acres. There were 198 personnel working on the fire as of Sunday morning.
Scattered rain showers moved over the fire area Saturday night but no significant precipitation was reported on the fireline. The forecast today calls for similar conditions as Saturday, with clouds, scattered rain showers and isolated thunderstorms.
Two helicopters assigned to the fire spent Saturday shuttling sling loads of equipment and firefighters to different parts of the fire. Helicopters also supported firefighters on the ground with strategic water drops. No fixed-wing, water-scooping aircraft or air tankers were used on Saturday.
Crews will continue to build and improve containment lines around the fire today. They will mop up by extinguishing or removing burning material near the lines with the goal of creating a 300-foot wide area, where safe and practical, along the perimeter of the fire.
Ten smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service were released from the fire on Saturday to be made available for initial attack in other parts of the state should new fires pop up.
A Type 2 initial attack crew from the U.S. Forest Service arrived on the fire Saturday evening. Three Type 2 crews from Venetie, Mountain Village and Selawik have also been ordered to fill in behind other initial attack crews working on the fire in anticipation of increased fire activity around the state. The recent hot, dry weather has elevated the fire danger around much of the state, particularly in the central and western Interior and southwest Alaska.
A structure protection group has identified 18 cabin/home sites in the proximity of the fire with many more recreational cabins and residences in subdivisions along the Alaska Highway. Structures closest to the fire have been prepared by firefighters to lessen the likelihood of damage or loss should the fire approach.
The human-caused fire was reported as a small blaze late Thursday morning and it grew rapidly to an estimated 800 acres by the end of the day due to warm, dry conditions. The predominant fuel type is black spruce.
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 cause of the fire is under investigation.