Smoke from wildfires in the central and western Interior continues to drift into the Tanana Valley and surrounding areas and is expected to persist into the weekend.
The smoke is being produced primarily by the Mooseheart (#204) and Zitziana River (#133) fires that are burning about eight miles south of Manley Hot Springs and about 100 miles west of Fairbanks. The Mooseheart Fire was estimated at 39,000 acres as of Friday morning and the Zitziana River Fire was estimated at 28,000 acres. The Zitziana River Fire has ballooned by almost 26,000 acres in the past two days due to gusty winds and warm, dry conditions. Both fires are actively burning in black spruce.
A cold front moving in from the northwest pushed gusty winds through the area that increased fire activity on both fires the past two days. Heavy smoke blew into Fairbanks Thursday evening and smoke was reported in Delta Junction, Nenana and Clear south of Fairbanks on Friday morning. Smoke will likely persist at least into Saturday.
The National Weather Service is forecasting rain showers in the Fairbanks area on Saturday and cloudy conditions on Sunday, which could help reduce the amount of smoke being produced by the two fires, though it’s uncertain how much, if any, rain will fall on the two fires.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an air quality advisory through 8 p.m. Saturday for the central and eastern Interior due to the smoke. According to the DEC, air quality will vary between good and unhealthy depending on wind flow and proximity to the fires. The worst conditions typically occur overnight and during the early morning when the atmosphere cools and brings smoke to the surface. During the day, surface heating will mix smoke and carry it upwards, temporarily improving air quality, according to the DEC advisory. Smoke intensity will vary depending on precise location and local wind flow patterns, the DEC said. Go to http://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/Advisories to check on DEC air quality advisories.
In smoke impacted areas, the DEC advises people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children to avoid prolonged exertion and to stay indoors with the windows shut. Others should limit prolonged exertion.
The public is asked to direct any questions regarding smoke or wildfire activity to the fire information office at the Alaska interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks at 907-356-5511 rather than the Fairbanks Area Forestry dispatch center.
More information can be found at the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center’s air quality page at https://fire.ak.blm.gov/predsvcs/airquality.php