Smoke from wildfires in western Interior blows into Fairbanks and areas north

No new fires were reported in the BLM Alaska Fire Service (BLM AFS) protection area on Sunday but two fires burning in the western Interior between Kaltag and Tanana remained active. Smoke from those fires is being blown into Fairbanks and areas north of Fairbanks, a scenario that is likely to continue for the next couple of days.

While parts of the western Interior received substantial rainfall overnight Sunday, that wasn’t the case on the Nowitna Fire (#336) about 80 miles southwest of Tanana or the Khotol Fire (#183) approximately 50 miles southwest of Galena. Both those fires reported only light rain and fire behavior remains active, evidenced by substantial acreage growth. Smoke from those fires is being blown east by west to southwest winds, impacting Fairbanks and areas to the north.

One staffed fire was declared out on Sunday, reducing the number of staffed fires in the BLM AFS protection area to five – one in the Galena Zone, one in the Tanana Zone and three in the Upper Yukon Zone. All 34 personnel working on the Jack White Fire (#344) approximately 6 miles northeast of Bettles were demobilized on Sunday and flown back to Fairbanks after that fire was declared out.

Weather permitting, BLM AFS will demobilize two more fires today, leaving only three staffed fires in the state. Four BLM Smokejumpers are scheduled to be released from the Lower Birch Fire (#359) about 15 miles northeast of Beaver while 27 personnel will be demobilized from the Campbell River Fire (#268) near the Alaska-Canada border in the northeast Interior.

Cooler, wetter weather is forecast for much of the Interior the next few days with the exception of the Upper Yukon Zone in northeast Alaska east of the Dalton Highway, where the forecast calls for minimal precipitation.

As of Monday morning, there were still 45 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. Personnel on staffed fires are working to protect cabins and Native allotments while allowing the remainder of the fire to function in its natural role.

For the season, there have been 321 fires in Alaska that have burned an estimated 548, 047 acres, most of which has been in the BLM AFS protection area. As of Monday morning, there have been 160 fires in the BLM AFS protection area that have burned an estimated 466,812 acres. The majority of that burned acreage (342,937 acres) has been in the Upper Yukon Zone east of the Dalton Highway.

Here’s a breakdown of BLM AFS staffed fires:

Lower Birch Fire (#359) – 0.2 acres. Start date 7/21/17. 4 personnel. Four BLM Smokejumpers mopped up the fire throughout shift on Sunday, finding and extinguishing two hot spots. Weather permitting, all resources will
be demobilized off the fire today. The fire is located in a Full suppression area along the Yukon River about 15 miles northeast of the village of Beaver.

Nowitna Fire (#336) – 24,672 acres, an increase of 6,672 acres since Saturday. Start date 7/14/17. 8 personnel. Despite low visibility due to smoke, personnel on a mapping and reconnaissance flight Sunday morning reported active fire behavior, evidenced by an estimated increase in acreage of more than 6,600 acres. Hot, dry, windy conditions contributed to the sizeable increase in growth. The fire received light rain overnight with intermittent showers. On Sunday, smokejumpers conducted burn-out operations to reinforce protection measures put in place for cabins and allotments in the fire area. Personnel will continue to search for hot spots and do saw work to reinforce containment lines around structures. Weather permitting, a reconnaissance flight will be conducted today to get a better look at fire growth and asses structures to the east and west of the fire. The fire is 48 miles southeast of Ruby in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge.

Campbell River Fire (#268) – 84,919 acres. Burning in Alaska since 6/26/17. 27 personnel. The fire received an estimated one-half inch of rain overnight. A final grid of the fire was made on Sunday and no heat was found within 300 feet of the fire’s edge. Helicopters were used to backhaul multiple loads of supplies and equipment off the fireline. All resources, including the Fort Yukon #2 Type 2 Crew and seven personnel with the BLM Fire Familiarization Program will be demobilized off the fire today. The fire is located 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. The fire received considerable rain overnight and it was still raining Monday morning. A reconnaissance flight on Sunday showed no active flame on the fire. There were some smokes on the interior and edge of the fire, but no active flames and the fire showed no movement. The Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshot Crew on Sunday continued to cut saw line around the allotment they are protecting about 5 miles from the fire. The saw line should be complete in the next two shifts. Sprinklers, pumps and hoses previously set up at a National Park Service public-use cabin at the mouth of the Kandik River, about 35 miles downstream on the Yukon River, were removed via helicopter. Weather permitting, all resources are scheduled to be demobilized off the fire by the end of shift on Tuesday. The fire is about 22 miles northwest of Eagle in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

Khotol Fire (#183) – 14,449, an increase of 2,642 acres since Saturday. Start date 6/6/17. 9 personnel. Fire behavior was reported as minimal on Sunday. The fire received very little precipitation overnight and gusty winds kept fuels dry. Given the current conditions, the fire is expected to remain active. Personnel continued to mop up a burn-out area on Sunday, as well as burn pockets of unburned fuel that remained. Similar work will continue today as firefighters plan for a full demobilization on Tuesday. Personnel will pull hose on the east side of the fire but hose lays on the south side will remain in place. The western edge of the fire is .6 miles from a Native allotment and 1.4 miles from a cabin. 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 Tim Mowry at (907) 356-5511 or tim.mowry@alaska.gov for more information.

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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