Fire activity picks up in northeastern Alaska

Map of some of the fires burning in the BLM Alaska Fire Service Upper Yukon Zone. As of Friday, 13 of the 87 active fires burning in Alaska were located within the Upper Yukon Zone that covers almost 52 million acres – an area the size of Minnesota – stretching from the Canadian Border to the Dalton Highway and from the Yukon River north to the Beaufort Sea.

As of Friday, 13 of the 87 active fires burning in Alaska were located within the BLM Alaska Fire Service Upper Yukon Zone that covers almost 52 million acres – an area the size of Minnesota – stretching from the Canadian Border to the Dalton Highway and from the Yukon River north to the Beaufort Sea.

Fort Yukon and Chalkyitsik have been abuzz with activity as aircraft and firefighters move through the two villages in response to fires burning in the north and central Interior part of the state. Two helicopters and the water-scooping Fire Boss aircraft are operating out of Fort Yukon. In addition, for a little more than a week, a load of smokejumpers and accompanying airplane prepositioned in the village during the day for a quicker response to new fires. That activity started Tuesday, a day after the Campbell River Fire crossed the International border. There are now about 43 people working on the fire, most of which are protecting a Native allotment within 14 miles of the fire. Planes are flying crews and supplies in to Chalkyitsik, which are then shuttled to fires by a helicopter.

As of Friday morning, 13 of the 87 active fires burning in Alaska were located within the BLM Alaska Fire Service Upper Yukon Zone that covers almost 52 million acres – an area the size of Minnesota – stretching from the Canadian Border to the Dalton Highway and from the Yukon River north to the Beaufort Sea.

Conditions in the northern Interior have been hot and dry most of the summer making the burnable fuels prime for ignitions when lightning moves through the area. Some of the uptick in lightning is accompanied by rain, while others were followed by a cluster of new fires around June 22 and earlier this week.

The good news is there a chance of clouds, scattered showers and isolate thunderstorms through the central and northern Interior in the upcoming days. The bad news is there will still be parts of that area that will remain hot and dry. The southern part of the zone that follows the Yukon River corridor has the best chance of receiving wetting rains while the chances lessen father north – the common theme this summer. There’s also more lightning predicted in the forecast, but whether it comes with rain is the question.

Here is the rundown of fires in northeast Alaska. All acreage estimates are as of Friday morning. All are considered lightning caused.

Discovery Creek (#283) – 7 acres. This was initially spotted by a BLM AFS contracted helicopter and flown by an Upper Yukon Zone detection airplane following reports of increased smoke. Personnel aboard the airplane reported it was 100 percent active, backing, running and torching with a high rate of spread. Two of the water-scooping Fire Boss aircraft were sent to the fire. They dropped water on the fire to help the 16-smokejumpers that parachuted in to provide suppression efforts on the ground. Another airplane was on scene to help coordinate the aerial suppression efforts. BLM AFS’s Type 2 training crew, the North Star Fire Crew, modeled after the Type 1 hotshot crew, will join the ground efforts today, relieving eight of the smokejumpers to return to Fairbanks where they will be placed back on the initial attack rotation.

This fire was burning in a limited suppression area in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, but based on the fire’s high intensity, BLM AFS fire management officials and refuge land managers decided to launch two loads of eight smokejumpers to suppress the fire before it reached a nearby allotment or burned into modified and full management option areas. The fire is about 30 miles south of Fort Yukon and 20 miles southeast of Birch Creek.

“We knew if we didn’t take action on it now, we’d be dealing with a much larger complex that would cost more resources in the near future,” said Steve Theisen, the former Upper Yukon Zone Fire Management Officer who was filling in as the zone duty officer. “Based on that it went from two to seven acres in the two hours it took for us to get to the fire tells me we made the right decision.”

Campbell River Fire (#268) – 6,000 acres. Smokejumpers were sent to prep the large allotment with structures near the confluence of the Salmon Trout and Porcupine rivers while another eight smokejumpers were sent to protect a permitted cabin on the Campbell River. The approximately 20-person Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshot Crew and three BLM AFS fire specialists joined the smokejumpers on the allotment Thursday to help prepare to protect the large parcel of land from the fire. Personnel aboard zone aircraft estimated the portion burning on the Alaskan side of the border was 6,000 acres while more than 52,000 acres have burned on the Canadian side according to satellite mapping.

Loper Creek (#272) – 1,266 acres. Because this fire is burning near three historical cabins, eight smokejumpers and two BLM AFS Fire Specialist are working on this fire that is burning in a limited suppression area. The fire was reported to be about 14 miles northwest of Central and 60 miles south of Fort Yukon.

Using satellite imagery, the Campbell River Fire is estimated to be more than 58,000 acres in size; 6,000 of which has burned in Alaska in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Using satellite imagery, the Campbell River Fire is estimated to be more than 58,000 acres in size, 6,000 of which has burned in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska side by Friday morning.

Seven Mile (#286) – 15 acres. This fire was discovered Thursday and was smoldering in white spruce in a limited suppression area in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. There is a cabin about 3-1/2 miles from the fire, but because of the fire’s low intensity, it was not considered immediately threatened. This fire was placed on monitor status.

Rat Creek (#284) – 1,200 acres. This fire was spotted by BLM AFS personnel aboard a plane flying paracargo to Campbell River Fire. It was reported as running in black spruce with some torching and spotting. It was put in monitor status because it is burning in a limited suppression area and is not threatening any known sites.

Ammerman Creek (#260) – 12,450 acres. This has been burning in ANWR 164 miles northeast of Venetie near the Canadian border since June 22. The fire grew considerably on Sunday, but when last checked on Wednesday, it was still 20 miles from a permitted cabin that was featured in a reality show. It was put in monitor status because it is burning in a limited suppression area and not threatening any known sites.

Charley (#277) – 10 acres. When zone personnel flew the fire on Thursday it had not grown and was showing only minimal activity within the fire perimeter. This fire was discovered burning in an old burn three miles east of the little Black River and about 30 miles east Circle. The fire was put in monitor status because it is burning in a limited suppression area and not threatening any known sites.

Koness (#258) – 80 acres. No smoke was visible from the air when last checked on Tuesday. It’s been burning in a limited suppression area since June 22.

Tchulkade Lake (#255) – 76 acres. No smoke was visible when this fire was last flown on Monday. It was discovered burning in Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge 55 miles east of Fort Yukon on June 21.

Click here for a map of some of the fires burning in the Upper Yukon Zone: UpperYukonFires_PIO_AnsiA_lscp_20170630 (1)

Click here for a map of the Campbell River Fire 6-30-2017 Campbell River Fire

Contact Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510 or by email eipsen@blm.gov for more information.

This map shows the various BLM Alaska Fire Service Protection Zones.

This map shows the various BLM Alaska Fire Service Protection Zones.

About BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (AFS) located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, provides wildland fire suppression services for over 244 million acres of Department of the Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska. In addition, AFS has other statewide responsibilities that include: interpretation of fire management policy; oversight of the BLM Alaska Aviation program; fuels management projects; and operating and maintaining advanced communication and computer systems such as the Alaska Lightning Detection System. AFS also maintains a National Incident Support Cache with a $10 million inventory. The Alaska Fire Service provides wildland fire suppression services for America’s “Last Frontier” on an interagency basis with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Military in Alaska.

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