Cooler, wetter weather expected for fires in northeastern Alaska

Fire activity picked up Friday as hot, dry weather continued over the northeastern Interior keeping wildland fires north of Fort Yukon and in Canada producing smoke. The smoke from these fires has spread across much of Alaska the past several days but a shift in the wind from the southwest has cleared many areas across the Interior. Smoke can still be possible as these fires will continue to burn until significant wetting rains are received on the fires.

A thermal trough is forecast to build over the southern Brooks Range and northeast Interior today, which is expected to bring a broad coverage of showers and isolated to scattered thunderstorms over the eastern two thirds of the state. A cold front out of the northern Yukon Territory is forecasted to move into the northeast Interior Saturday night. Gusty winds from the northeast are expected as this fast moving front moves over the fires in the area. Winds will turn back to a westerly flow by Sunday but temperatures will be cooler, with higher relative humidity. Fire managers are using this moderation in fire activity to move crews and other resources as they prioritize needs for protecting Native allotments and permitted cabins along the Sheenjek River and the Canadian border.

There are 27 active fires in the Upper Yukon fire management zone that covers a section of the state east of the Dalton Highway to the Canadian border and from the Arctic Ocean south to Livengood and Chicken. Most of these fires are burning in remote areas designated for limited protection and are not threatening any known sites of value. Despite this, firefighters are assigned to three fires to protect cabins and Native allotments while allowing the remainder of the fire to continue to function in its natural ecological role.

Here’s a breakdown of staffed fires in the Upper Yukon Zone:

Helmet Fire (#312) – 22,989 acres, a change of 762 acres since Thursday. Start date 7/6/17. Four personnel. BLM Smokejumpers were deployed to a permitted cabin on the west side of the Sheenjek River, south of the confluence with the Koness River. South winds and the increase in fire activity Friday started the fire moving north towards the cabin. Surveillance aircraft reported the fire perimeter to be 80 percent active, backing into the wind on the south side and running with group torching to the north. Firefighters will clear brush from around the cabin and set up pumps, hose lays and sprinklers. This will be ready to keep the site wet should the fire continue towards the cabin. The fire’s northern edge was reported to be 4-miles south of the cabin and still remains on the east side of the Sheenjek. The southern edge of the fire is 3.5 miles from the Thluichohnjik Creek cabin.

Boulder Creek (#292) – 23,384 acres. Start date 7/2/17. 75 personnel. Firefighters are organized into two different groups, both tasked with providing protection to Native allotments and permitted cabins in the area of Vundik Lake and the Sheenjek River. Crews will continue hold their positions and monitor the fires burning nearby. Aerial reconnaissance Friday reported the southwest side of the fire as 50 percent active. The northeast perimeter was reported to be very active with an 800 acre gain in size – away from firefighter’s positions. The fire is 1.3-miles north of the Vundik Lake cabin, 2.5 miles from the allotment on the lake, and 4-miles from the allotment on the Sheenjek River. This fire and the Helmet Fire are within 3 miles of each other on the east side of the Sheenjek River. They are burning in a limited suppression area in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Campbell River Fire burns to the southwest of the confluence of the Salmon Trout and Porcupine rivers Friday, July 14, 2017, near the Canadian border in northeast Alaska. The fire was a reported as 30 percent active with the most activity on the southwestern edges. James Higgins / BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Campbell River Fire burns to the southwest of the confluence of the Salmon Trout and Porcupine rivers Friday, July 14, 2017, near the Canadian border in northeast Alaska. The fire was a reported as 30 percent active with the most activity on the southwestern edges. James Higgins / BLM Alaska Fire Service

Campbell River (#268) – 55,309 acres, an increase of 9,789 acres from Thursday. Burning in Alaska since 6/26/17. 35 personnel. Aerial reconnaissance Friday reported the fire was 30 percent active with the most active portions to be on the southwestern edges. The fire’s perimeter is currently 1.3-miles from the Salmon Trout River allotment and 4-miles from the nearest structure. The fire’ behavior was described as backing, running, and torching with continuous crowning. Late in the evening, favorable conditions materialized at the allotment site and firefighters conducted a firing operation to remove fuels from the allotment line to the fire’s edge. Today, crews will continue to monitor the fire’s behavior near the cabin and monitoring the effects of the firing operation. The fire is burning in a limited protection area along the Porcupine River within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It started in the Yukon Territory and crossed into Alaska on June 26. The total fire size is estimated to be more than 95,000 acres.

Contact Public Information Officer Sam Harrel at (907) 322-7204 or pio.samharrel@gmail.com for more information.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: