Firefighters are mopping up a wildfire that broke out near Delta Junction on Friday and burned an estimated 250 acres before it was brought under control.
The North Eielson Fire was reported at approximately 1:15 p.m. off Tanana Loop Extension northeast of Delta Junction. The fire was originally thought to be caused by a tree falling on a powerline but fire managers said on Saturday there are no powerlines in the area and the fire is under investigation.
The fire started in a forested area and spread to a field of nearby grass. Driven by high winds, the fire quickly spread across three farm fields before running into a stand of black spruce and mixed hardwoods not far from multiple residences on Tanana Loop Extension.
Fire activity slowed once the fire hit the timber and firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry, BLM Alaska Fire Service and the Rural Deltana Fire Department were able to keep it from threatening any homes. A Division of Forestry air tanker from Palmer was called in and dropped at least two loads of retardant around the blaze to help keep it from spreading further.
Three 20-person initial attack crews and a load of eight smokejumpers worked into the early morning Saturday to contain the blaze. Approximately 80 personnel were on scene Saturday searching out hot spots and mopping up the perimeter of the fire, which is expected to be fully contained by 10 p.m. Saturday.
It was the first significant wildfire of the season in Alaska and drew a quick and aggressive response from the Alaska Division of Forestry due to its proximity to residences in the area. The fire illustrates how dry conditions are despite the fact that the winter snowpack just recently melted off, said Delta Area Fire Management Officer Mike Goyette with the Alaska Division of Forestry. Conditions will remain extremely dry until greenup, he said.
Most of the estimated 250 acres burned by the fire was farm fields, according to Goyette. The fire burned in a cigar shape and was about 2 ½ to 3 miles long, he said. The high winds on Friday caused the fire to make small runs in the spruce canopy but fire activity calmed once it reached hardwoods and the winds died down, Goyette said.
A bulldozer was being used to break up windrows and berms that caught fire while firefighters were focusing their efforts on seeking out hot spots in the burned timber.