The northeastern and central parts of the state continue to be the hot spot for fires – both literately and figuratively. As of Thursday afternoon, there were six of the 84 active fires staffed. All of these fires fall within the BLM Alaska Fire Service’s Tanana and Upper Yukon fire management zones that are divided by the Dalton Highway that runs north of Fairbanks to Deadhorse. The Upper Yukon Zone, which covers the eastern section of Alaska, has been perpetually dry this summer and is forecasted to remain that way. An area including the Southeastern Brooks Range running from Bettles to the Canadian Border, and the Yukon Flats surrounding uplands were under a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning Thursday that predicted extreme fire behavior for existing fires and new starts. A red flag is initiated when the forecast predicts temperatures greater than 75 degrees, relative humidity levels less than 25 percent and sustained winds of 15 mph or more. The winds are expected to die down a bit in these areas in the upcoming days, but near red flag warning conditions will linger throughout the weekend as the high temperatures and low humidity levels are expected to stick around.
So far, most of the fires are burning in remote parts of the state and in limited protection areas. Some of the staffed fires are new starts that required an initial attack to contain the fire due to the chance that it would become unmanageable problem in the future. Otherwise, firefighters are protecting Native allotments and a scattering of structures from encroaching flames.
Here’s a breakdown of fires:
Paddle Creek (#314) – 100 acres and 100 percent active with some running and torching reported Thursday. No personnel. This fire was burning in a modified protection area, but due to limited resources available at the time it was deemed beyond suppression efforts by the time it was discovered. It is burning in an area between Paddle Creek and Big Creek located on the other side of the Yukon River and 14 miles northeast of Circle. No structures are threatened.
Tolovana River (#309) – .1 acre. Start date 7/5/17. Two smokejumpers. A private helicopter pilot reported spotting smoke five miles south of Livengood Wednesday. The fire was burning in a limited protection area, but due to structures in the area the land manager chose to take action to contain the fire. An Alaska Department of Forestry helicopter was sent to the fire and found a single torched tree located on the top third of a ridge in mixture of hardwood trees. The helicopter was able to drop a few buckets of water to keep fire activity subdued. Ground personnel were not able to reach the fire Wednesday due to lack of a helicopter landing zone. Two smokejumpers parachuted into the area Thursday where they brought the fire under control before building a landing spot for a helicopter to get them out of the area and back into the initial attack rotation.
Big Lake (#308) – 5 acres. Start Date 7/5/17. 16 personnel. The fire was reported by BLM AFS personnel flying a detection flight. It was reported to be 2 acres and plotted in a full protection area. The fire was reported at 80 percent active with some running, torching and spotting. Sixteen smokejumpers deployed and were assisted from the air by the four water-scooping Fire Boss airplane and an airplane coordinating the aerial suppression efforts. Alaska Division of Forestry’s Type 2 Initial Attack (IA) White Mountain crew moved from the Rodgers Creek Fire (#298) on Thursday to replace the 16 smokejumpers that had put in a saw line around the fire Wednesday night. This fire is burning on Native land 5.6 miles northwest of Beaver.
Monument Creek (#307) – 8 acres. Start date 7/5/17. No personnel. BLM AFS personnel aboard a detection flight discovered this eight-acre tundra fire south of Monument Creek. At the time, the fire was reported as 20 percent active and backing up slope and burning at the bottom of a canyon. This fire is in a limited protection area and not threatening any sites of value. This fire is burning in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 43 miles east of Arctic Village.
Dietrich River (#304) – 40 acres. Start date 7/5/17. No personnel. The fire was reported by Alyeska Pipeline Services security personnel at Pump Station No. 4. A BLM AFS aircraft flew the fire and reported it was approximately 40 acres burning in a limited protection area with the fire activity burning on 20 percent of the perimeter. The fire was reported as smoldering and creeping in tundra with some under burn in black spruce. Motorists on the Dalton Highway reported seeing the smoke from this fire around milepost 229. Because no values were at risk, this fire was placed in monitor status.
White Snow (#303) – 108 acres. Start date 7/4/17. 14 personnel. Crews were mopping up Thursday. Their suppression efforts were aided Wednesday by two Fire Boss airplanes and air attack airplane. Seven more smokejumpers were moved from the neighboring Boulder Creek Fire (#292) to help with this fire burning in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 52 miles southeast of Arctic Village. All smokejumpers are expected to come off the fire Thursday night.
Rogers Creek (#298) – 12 acres. Start date 7/3/17. 49 personnel. Ground personnel continue to do a thorough gridding of the fire, walking within the perimeter and checking for hot spots. The fire only showed a few smokes Wednesday. Two BLM AFS Fire Specialists were deployed to assist with continuing mop-up operations. Meanwhile, the White Mountain Type 2 IA crew moved to the Big Lake Fire (#308). However, the BLM AFS’s training crew, the North Star Fire Crew, remains in place. They anticipate to wrap things up and be able to demobilize Friday. This fire is burning in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge on the southeast side of the Yukon River 11 miles from Stevens Village.
Boulder Creek (#292) – Was estimated at 600 acres on Wednesday, but satellite imagery showed substantial acreage growth on Thursday. Start date 7/2/17. 23 personnel. The BLM AFS Type 1 Chena Interagency Hotshot Crew continues to construct saw line around a Native allotment and set up necessary structure protection measures. The fire was most active on the west and southwest. This fire is burning in a limited suppression area in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
Discovery Creek (#283) – 7 acres. Start date 6/29/17. 2 personnel. Two BLM AFS Fire Specialist remain on the fire checking for hot spots. This fire is burning near historical cabins in a limited protection area in the Yukon Flats Wildlife Refuge. The two expect to have efforts wrapped up and demobilize on Friday.
Campbell River (#268) – Estimated total size is more than 60,000 acres with 23,100 on the Alaska side of the border. Start date 6/26/17. 34 personnel assigned including the BLM AFS Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshot Crew. The fire is burning in a limited protection area within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, about is about 11 miles east of a Native allotment at the confluence of the Salmon Trout and Campbell rivers and about 10 miles east of a Fish and Wildlife Service permitted cabin on the opposite side of the Campbell River. Fire behavior increased with warmer, drier, windier conditions the past few days resulting substantial growth. Personnel completed fire line at the allotment Wednesday and will continue improving structure protection.
Other new fires that popped up on Thursday that are in monitor status because they’re burning in a limited protection area and were not threatening any known sites of value.
Garnett Creek (#315) – This was spotted at a half an acre and burning more than five miles from allotments located about 41 miles northeast of Tanana.
Sand Hills (#313) – 2 acres with a 50 percent active perimeter. It was reported as smoldering, creeping in a mixture of hardwood and spruce trees. It’s located 20 miles west of the village of Beaver on the opposite side of the Yukon River.
Contact BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.