Hot weather keeps fires active across northern Interior Alaska

Hot weather dominated the northern Interior once again on as temperatures in the 80’s were recorded from the Kobuk Valley to the upper Yukon River. Chalkyitsik reported a high of 88 degrees. West to southwest winds will increase today, relative humidity will generally be in the upper 20s to lower 30s, and temperatures will remain high leading to near Red Flag conditions northeast of Fort Yukon and southeast of Arctic Village. Isolated thunderstorms remain in the forecast, but they have produced minimal rainfall in some areas and missed many more across the Interior, making dry fuels receptive to lightning strikes.

A new fire was reported Wednesday in the Donnelly Training Area south of Delta Junction. A piece of heavy equipment doing fuels management work caught fire. Range control responded and suppressed the 33 Mile Loop Fire (#352) before it advanced further into the surrounding wildland. This fire has been placed into monitor status. Currently there are 49 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. 34 personnel. The BLM AFS entry-level Type 2 North Star Crew was mobilized to the fire Wednesday to assist BLM Smokejumpers as they continue to improve the perimeter by extinguishing or removing all burning material. Firefighters reported the fire area did receive some precipitation yesterday but it did not have a lasting effect on the areas of heat. 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 Wednesday showed the fire as 80 percent active, creeping in black spruce and tundra with torching and flame lengths of 1-2 feet. The fire was burning in multiple directions due to variable winds caused by a thunderstorm in the area. Smokejumpers assessed other cabins in the area yesterday. Today, they will hold their position, continue to monitor the fire’s activity, and assess the need for structure protection based on fire growth and weather. 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. 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. 27 personnel. The BLM Type 2 Fort Yukon #2 Crew and the BLM Fire Familiarization group mopped up 150 feet into the burned area around the Salmon Trout allotment. Minimal heat was reported within the 150 feet buffer but pockets of heat beyond that distance were prevalent. Today, they will work to seek out and extinguish any places that continue to hold heat 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. At last report the fire was 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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