Number of staffed fires continues to dwindle

Northern Alaska continues to be the last holdout for the fire season in Alaska. While widespread rain is forecasted throughout the western third of the state in the next few days, a donut hole of dry conditions will continue in the Yukon Flats area. The area ranges from Bettles to Fort Yukon. Efforts were underway today to demobilize firefighters from two of the three remaining staffed fires.

This map shows the Fine Fuel Moisture Code (FFMC), the level found in fine fuels such as grass, for Alaska on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center's MesoWest application shows the Yukon Flats as the driest part of the state. The flames show where there are active fires.

This map shows the Fine Fuel Moisture Code (FFMC), the level found in fine fuels such as grass, for Alaska on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center’s MesoWest application shows the Yukon Flats as the driest part of the state. The flames show where there are active fires. 

A new fire was discovered Monday in the BLM Alaska Fire Service Upper Yukon Fire Management Zone, which covers the eastern Interior of Alaska, by use of satellite mapping. Zone personnel flew to the area, verified the fire and reported the Chandalar Fire (#367) was about 50 acres with 75 percent of its perimeter active. It’s burning in a limited protection area in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge about 30 miles northwest of Fort Yukon and was put in monitor status. It is one of 26 active fires in the Upper Yukon Zone. There are 52 active fires throughout the state with 44 of them falling within the BLM AFS protection area that spans most of the northern half of the state. Because 38 of these fires are burning in limited management option areas they are being monitored and allowed to function in their natural ecological role. However, some of these fires that are staffed by BLM AFS firefighters to protect sites such as cabins and Native allotments. In these cases, firefighters will take measures such as set up sprinklers on cabins and clear a saw line to create a protective buffer in case the fire threatens these sites.

Here’s the rundown of staffed fires for Alaska:

Nowitna (#336) – 24,672 acres. Start date 7/14/17. Eight smokejumpers continue to fortify protection measures around structures and allotments in the area. The fire was about 70 percent active Monday thanks to 10-20 mph winds. The wind drove the fire in strips across the top of a ridge, occasionally causing it to spot. The fire was held up in other places by an old burn on the southeast side of an allotment. This lightning-caused fire is burning in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge on the south side of the river it’s named after. It’s burning about 70 miles southwest of Tanana and in the Tanana Fire Management Zone that covers the middle parts of the state on the west side of the Dalton Highway.

Trout Creek (#256) – 2,886 acres. Start date 6/21/17. 25 personnel. After receiving a fair amount of rain in the fire area Monday, the 23-person Type 1 Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshot Crew completed a saw line around a Native allotment that is four miles east of the fire. The fire is about a mile north of a cabin that was prepped for a fire in 2015. BLM AFS smokejumpers will mobilize if fire activity picks up and threatens the cabin. After five days on the fire, the hotshots were expected to demobilize Tuesday night. This lightning-caused fire is burning about 22 miles northwest of Eagle in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

Khotol (#183) – 14,449 acres, an increase of 2,641 since Saturday. Start date 6/6/17. Nine personnel. This fire remains active after it roared back to life almost two weeks ago. Sixteen smokejumpers parachuted into the area to protect two Native allotments and a cabin from the fires. The last of the smokejumpers demobilized today. The fire is expected to get rain in the next couple of days. This fire is burning on Native corporation land 14 miles east of Kaltag on the opposite side of the Yukon River.

Contact BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510 or eipsen@blm.gov for more information.

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About BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (AFS) located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, provides wildland fire suppression services for over 244 million acres of Department of the Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska. In addition, AFS has other statewide responsibilities that include: interpretation of fire management policy; oversight of the BLM Alaska Aviation program; fuels management projects; and operating and maintaining advanced communication and computer systems such as the Alaska Lightning Detection System. AFS also maintains a National Incident Support Cache with a $10 million inventory. The Alaska Fire Service provides wildland fire suppression services for America’s “Last Frontier” on an interagency basis with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Military in Alaska.

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