Over 60 firefighters working on Alaska wildland fires

A lightning-caused fire in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve was discovered Tuesday by spotters in surveillance aircraft. The Essie Creek Fire (#348) was reported to be 5 acres and smoldering in a mix of white and black spruce. It is in a Limited suppression area and will be monitored. While isolated thunderstorms have produced rainfall in some areas across the Interior, other areas have received minimal amounts, making dry fuels receptive to lightning strikes.

Currently there are 48 active fires in the BLM Alaska Fire Service (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 continued to improve the perimeter by extinguishing or removing all burning material. Firefighters reported a high of 80 degrees Tuesday and the fire was smoldering and creeping. Today they will continue to look for and extinguish hots spots as they work 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.

Nowitna Fire (#336) – 4,918 acres. Start date 7/14/17. 8 personnel. Aerial surveillance Tuesday showed the fire as 40 percent active, creeping and backing. Moderate growth to the northwest was observed as well as slight growth on the southeastern edge of the fire. Weather over the fire was reported as 95 percent cloud cover with light winds and no precipitation. Smokejumpers improved their fire line and structure protection sprinkler systems. Today firefighters will assess other cabins in the area. They will hold their position and monitor the fire’s progression. The fire is located 48 miles southeast of Ruby in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge

Boulder Creek (#292) – 41,186 acres. Start date 7/2/17. 4 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 Alaska Division of Forestry White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew was demobilized from the fire Tuesday. Two BLM Fire Specialists remain at Vundik Lake and two smokejumpers are camped along the Sheenjek. Personnel will continue to hold their positions and monitor the fires burning nearby. 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. The BLM Type 2 Fort Yukon #2 Crew and the BLM Fire Familiarization group mopped up 100 feet into the burned area around the Salmon Trout allotment. Today, they will work to widen that area to ensure the fire cannot reach the allotment. 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. Start date 6/6/17. 9 personnel. Smokejumpers continue to hold their position and monitor the fire’s progress. Tuesday they reported very little fire activity, no spread and smoke along the edge nearest them. The fire received light precipitation in the morning, yet no rain through the day. 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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