Fire weather concerns are forecast to diminish early next week

Cooler temperatures and moderate relative humidity are being reported by firefighters assigned to fires from southwest of Galena to those northeast of Fort Yukon. Isolated thunderstorms continue to move across the region, but they have produced minimal rainfall in some areas and missed others. Fire weather concerns are forecast to diminish early next week as a cooler, moist air mass moves in from the west.

Pilots in passing aircraft Thursday reported two separate fires. BLM Smokejumpers were sent to the Beaver area and confirmed the Deadman Fire (#354), described as two acres burning on Deadman Island in the Yukon River about 30 miles upriver from Beaver. The coordinates placed the fire in a Limited protection area so the smokejumpers took no action. Smokejumper aircraft personnel also confirmed a fire along Wickersham Creek in the BLM White Mountains National Recreation Area north of Fairbanks. They reported the Wickersham Dome Fire (#353) to be 10 acres burning in black spruce and tundra. It is about 3 miles southeast of the Borealis – LeFevre Public Use Cabin. Fire managers are not taking any action on the fire at this time as it is located in a Limited protection area. The Limited Management Option is designed for broad, landscape-scale areas where the low density and wide distribution of values to be protected best allows for fire to function in its ecological role. Fire managers are working with the Fairbanks BLM District Office to develop a plan if the fire threatens cabins in the recreation area.

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 six 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) – 11.8 acres. Start date 7/16/17. 34 personnel. BLM AFS entry-level Type 2 North Star Crew is working with BLM Smokejumpers as they continue their mop-up operation. Firefighters reported a fair amount of precipitation and lightning yesterday. Today, they will grid the green areas around the fire to ensure there are no spots of heat outside the fire perimeter. The fire is approximately 6 miles northeast of Bettles on the western edge of the Jack White Range.

Nowitna Fire (#336) – 9,000 acres, an increase of 4,083 acres since Wednesday. Start date 7/14/17. 8 personnel. Aerial surveillance Thursday showed the fire as 70 percent active, smoldering, creeping, backing, running, and torching in a spruce and hardwood mix. The fire was most active along the eastern flank and the western flank was 50 percent active and backing. The head of the fire has made it into the flats and was reportedly within 3 miles of a cabin. 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. Firefighters in both camps reported scattered rain yesterday and a couple of hours of heavy rain last night. Aerial surveillance was conducted Thursday with observers reporting two areas of heat continue to smolder on the southwest side of the fire. One area is 1.5 miles from the cabin on the northwest side of Vundik and the other is 3.8 miles away. 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 have secured a 150-foot wide perimeter into the burned area around the Salmon Trout allotment. Today, firefighters will work to extinguish the last remaining “tenacious” pockets of heat near the allotment. Personnel on the fire reported that moderate to heavy precipitation has been received. However, within an hour of the rain the main fire behavior picked back up. 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.

Trout Creek Fire (#256) – 2,887 acres. Start date 6/21/17. 25 personnel. After monitoring the progress of the fire, Upper Yukon Zone fire managers mobilized the BLM Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshot Crew on Thursday to a Native land allotment on the Yukon River about 4 miles from the fire. Because of a recent increase in the fire’s size and the amount of work expected to secure the allotment, the hotshots along with two BLM Fire Specialists were assigned. They will also assess other cabins in the area for their protection needs. The fire is about 22 miles northwest of Eagle.

Khotol Fire (#183) – 5,327 acres. Start date 6/6/17. 9 personnel. Smokejumpers conducted a successful burn-out operation to remove burnable vegetation between the east side of the allotment they are protecting from the advancing fire. Today, they will mop-up the fire line along the allotment and continue to hold their position and monitor the fire’s progress. Observers aboard surveillance aircraft reported that the fire continues to back to the north, has an active east flank, showed minimal activity on the west flank and has an established head moving to the southeast at a moderate rate. 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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