Fire managers have formulated a plan to manage a 198-acre wildfire that started in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday evening.
The East Fork Fire was reported at 6:25 p.m. east of the East Fork of the Moose River, approximately 4 ½ miles northeast of the community of Sterling and the Sterling Highway. The lightning-caused fire grew rapidly and was estimated at 100 acres by the time air attack personnel arrived.
The fire is located in a limited suppression area and the primary fuel type is black spruce with mixed hardwoods. Given the volatility of black spruce, the fire exhibited extreme fire behavior Thursday night with crowning and 30- to 40-foot flame lengths in areas of black spruce. Due to the extreme fire behavior and the fire’s proximity to local infrastructure, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the decision to take suppression action on a portion of the fire.
An air tanker from Palmer was called in and dropped one load of water on the fire. Ground forces were mobilized in the form of 16 smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks and three helitack personnel from the Alaska Division of Forestry in Palmer.
Ground personnel arrived at the fire at approximately 10:30 p.m. and worked late into the night to establish a safe camping area and landing zone for a helicopter. Ground personnel will be working today to establish an anchor point and indirect line on the west side of the fire and will also be working on indirect line on the south side of the fire. More crews will be en route to the fire today to increase the number of personnel working on the fire. The objective is to keep the fire east and north of the East Fork of the Moose River.
Water drops from aircraft will be used to support firefighting efforts on the ground. Retardant is not being used because of the fire’s proximity to an anadramous salmon stream. Retardant could be used if the fire poses a direct threat to values at risk but that is not the case at this time.
The public is asked to please steer clear of crews working in the area and be aware of the potential for aircraft using Skilak Lake to scoop water. This could limit recreational access to a portion of Skilak Lake.
A temporary flight restriction (TFR) has been put in place over the fire area 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.
For more information, contact Alaska Division of Forestry public information officer Celeste Prescott at 907-244-9376. Information about the fire is also being posted on KPBOEM.blogspot.com.