Alaska’s dry Interior still receptive to lightning strikes

Lightning continues to find dry areas across Alaska’s northern Interior with the discovery of the Little Mud Fire (#346) located in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge 35-miles southwest of Tanana. There have been 41 lightning-caused fires this month in the fire management zones of the BLM Alaska Fire Service (BLM AFS), roughly the area north of the Alaska Range. Isolated thunderstorms across the region have left some areas with minimal rainfall making fuels receptive to lightning strikes. Lightning-caused fire are a natural part of Alaska’s boreal forest and tundra ecosystems.

Currently there are 47 active fires in the BLM AFS protection area. 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 staffing five fires to protect cabins and Native allotments while allowing the remainder of the fire to continue to function in its natural role. Smoky conditions are still possible as these fires will continue to burn until they receive significant wetting rains.

Here’s a breakdown of BLM AFS staffed fires:

Jack White Fire (#344) – 12.6 acres. Start date 7/16/17. 12 personnel. BLM Smokejumpers completed a saw line around the fire with the support of a helicopter dropping buckets of water Monday. Today they will continue to improve the perimeter by extinguishing or removing all burning material or places holding heat to make a wider buffer along the fire’s edge. The fire is approximately 6 miles northeast of Bettles on the western edge of the Jack White Range.

Southwest winds push the Nowitna Fire (#336) on Monday afternoon, July 17, 2017. The fire is located 48 miles southeast of Ruby in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge. Jake Livingston / BLM Alaska Fire Service

Southwest winds push the Nowitna Fire (#336) on Monday afternoon, July 17, 2017. The fire is located 48 miles southeast of Ruby in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge. Jake Livingston / BLM Alaska Fire Service

Nowitna Fire (#336) – 4,918 acres, an increase of 1,927 acres since Sunday. Start date 7/14/17. 8 personnel. Aerial surveillance Monday showed the fire with a 70 percent active perimeter, backing and running with group torching in spruce and hardwood mix. The northwestern portion of the fire was the most active and it was spotting up to a .5 mile. Smokejumpers completed a helicopter landing site and a saw line around a cabin site. A pump, hose, and sprinkler system was set up and tested. Today firefighters will continue to improve their position as the fire advances. At last report the fire was within 1.5 miles of the cabin. The fire is located 48 miles southeast of Ruby in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge

Boulder Creek (#292) – 41,186 acres, a decrease of 1,927 acres from Sunday. Start date 7/2/17. 24 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. The BLM Chena Interagency Hot Shot Crew (IHC) along with two BLM Fire Specialists (FS) were demobilized from the fire Monday. Two BLM FS remain at Vundik Lake. The fire received some precipitation Sunday night and minimal fire activity was reported Monday. Personnel will continue to hold their positions and monitor the fires burning nearby. The decrease in acreage is from improved conditions allowing better satellite mapping. The fire is .8-mile 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 (#312) are within 3 miles of each other on the east side of the Sheenjek River. They are burning in a limited suppression area over 60 miles northeast of Fort Yukon in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Campbell River (#268) – 84,919 acres. Burning in Alaska since 6/26/17. 29 personnel. Aerial reconnaissance Monday showed smoldering areas across the Salmon Trout River on the fire’s edge. The BLM Type 2 Fort Yukon #2 Crew and the BLM Fire Familiarization group mopped up 50 feet into the burned area around the Salmon Trout allotment. Today, they will work to widen that area to 100 feet. The fire’s perimeter is still over 4 miles from the cabin at the confluence of the Campbell and Porcupine rivers. The cabin protection setup is complete for this cabin. 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 on June 22 and crossed into Alaska on June 26. The total fire size is estimated to be more than 147,000 acres.

Khotol Fire (#183) – 5,327 acres, an increase of 10 acres from Sunday. Start date 6/6/17. 9 personnel. Smokejumpers were deployed to the fire last week to protect a cabin and Native allotments. Fire behavior Monday was reported to be moderate. It was creeping with group and isolated torching on the western flank. Firefighters will continue to hold their position and monitor the fire’s progress. At last report the fire was reported to be 1.2 miles from an allotment to the north. The fire is burning on Native corporation land 14 miles east of Kaltag on the opposite side of the Yukon River.

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

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