Smokejumpers, aircraft work on new fire north of Fort Yukon

This Alaska Interagency Coordination Center map shows the Shovun Lake Fire in relation to Fort Yukon.

This Alaska Interagency Coordination Center map shows the Shovun Lake Fire in relation to Fort Yukon. Click here for PDF map: 7-29-17 371 Shovun Lake fire

Eight smokejumpers and five aircraft were busy Saturday night trying to suppress a new fire burning about 10 miles northwest of Fort Yukon. The Shovun Lake Fire (#371) was spotted shortly after 3 p.m. today by BLM Alaska Fire Service personnel flying a detection flight in the area. It was originally reported as one acre and burning in a full management option area about 1.5 miles south of Native allotments around the Shovun Lake. By the time the eight smokejumpers arrived in the area, they reported the fire had grown to about five acres, was 70 percent active and burning in a mixture of spruce and hardwoods. The smokejumpers requested help from two water-scooping Fire Boss aircraft and an air attack plane to help coordinate fire suppression efforts from the air. They later asked for the two remaining Fire Boss airplanes to join the fight to quickly contain the fire.

The Yukon Flats, an area in Eastern Alaska between the Brooks Range and White Mountains, continues to be the troublesome part of state for wildfires due to hot, dry weather that has persisted this summer. The forecast doesn’t predict that will change in the next few days. The Shovun Fire is one of only two staffed fires. The other, the 53,637-acre Nowitna Fire (#336), is burning 70 miles southwest of Tanana in the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge. BLM AFS’s training crew, the North Star Fire Crew, will take command of the fire tonight from the eight smokejumpers who have been working hard to securing a line around a cabin that is threatened by the fire. The North Stars will pick up where they left off and the smokejumpers will demobilize on Sunday.

An Upper Yukon Zone surveillance aircraft flew many of the other fires in the Yukon Flats on Saturday and reported significant activity, especially Forty and One Half Fire (#360). Today, satellite imagery showed several of these fires were burning hot, but whether they will increase much in size has yet to be determined. The heat could come from the wildfire reaching a strand of spruce trees which will increase fire activity.

This Alaska Interagency Coordination Center map shows the wildfires in the Yukon Flats area.

This Alaska Interagency Coordination Center map shows the wildfires in the Yukon Flats area. Click here for PDF map 7-29-17 Yukon Flats fires map

Yesterday’s surveillance flight of the area revealed:

Chandalar (#367) — Estimated 100 acres. Had a 50 percent active perimeter and burning in spruce and hardwood mix. The fire is expected to continue growing north with predicted south winds. This fire is burning about 12 miles southeast of Venetie in a limited protection area in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge and is being monitored.

Forty and One Half (#360) — Estimated at 6,000 acres. Had a 100 percent active perimeter. It was backing and running with group tree torching and continuous crowning in a spruce and hardwood mix. The fire was spreading in all directions and is expected to grow with fuels aligning with predicted winds. This fire is burning about 30 miles north of Beaver in a limited protection area and is being monitored.

Paddle Creek (#314) — Estimated 233 acres. Had a five percent active perimeter. Smoldering fire activity was observed in hardwoods on the north and west tips of the perimeter. The fire is burning 14 miles northeast of Circle on Native Corporation land. It is in a limited protection area and is being monitored.

Boulder Creek (#292) — Estimated at 41,186 acres. Was 30 percent active along the southwest tip of the fire. Smoldering continues in the black spruce and hardwood mix, with several interior smoke north of Little Vundik Lake. This fire is burning in a Limited suppression area over 60 miles northeast of Fort Yukon in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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

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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