Dry conditions, lightning keep firefighters busy throughout BLM AFS areas

Fire season has reared its head in Alaska, again. After a lull of activity following a lightning bust in early June, a little bit of lightning coupled with prolonged hot, dry conditions has created an uptick of fires in Alaska. This has kept BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers busy as they respond to fires to either put them out, do structure protection or work until they can be replaced by other firefighters. The hot, dry conditions are predicted to continue throughout Alaska. Fire officials will continue to fly detection flights to follow the path of lightning strikes to find new fire starts.

The 46,810-acre Zitziana River Fire (#133) burning south of Manley Hot Springs was active for the second day in a row and burned through the remaining land on the west side of Kindamina Lake. The nine firefighters on the ground stayed busy going between the cabins on the lake front, keeping the fire at bay. They will be busy mopping up around the structures to ensure there areas around them are completely extinguished and buttoning up any remaining work needed in order to secure the safety of the cabins.

This map includes several fires burning along the Yukon River in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

This map includes several fires burning along the Yukon River in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Click on link 7-24-18 UYD Yukon River fires for a PDF version of the map.

Meanwhile, four smokejumpers were trying to catch a fire burning near the historical Coal Creek mining camp in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve about 65 miles northwest of Eagle. The Dome Creek Fire (#361) was spotted by National Park Service personnel flying from the mining camp to Fairbanks via a helicopter late Monday night. While flying to the fire this morning, smokejumpers spotted two other fires burning nearby before the four jumped out the aircraft door. The Andrew Creek Fire (#366) is burning in a limited management option area on the north side of the Yukon River while the Dome Creek Fire and new fires, and Edwards Creek Fire (#365) and the Eureka Creek Fire (#370), are on the south side of the river. A detection flight discovered the Eureka Creek Fire and the Paddle Creek Fire (#369), which is burning farther downriver from the this cluster of Yukon River fires.

The Dome Creek Fire (#361) is burning in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve near several structures including cabins left from the Gold Rush days. Photo by Dustin Wessel, BLM AFS.

The Dome Creek Fire (#361) is burning in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve near several structures including cabins left from the Gold Rush days. Photo by Dustin Wessel, BLM AFS.

The smokejumpers on the ground initially reported the Dome Creek Fire was a tenth of an acre and smoldering and creeping in an old burn. They were working towards containment of the fire when the wind shifted and pushed it up a hill. It was an estimated 40-60 acres by Tuesday afternoon and too large for the smokejumpers to suppress. A small incident management team will take over coordinating efforts on this and the six other fires burning along the Yukon River in the national preserve. The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve has temporary closed its Coal Creek and Slavin’s facilities in order to allow firefighters and aircraft from BLM AFS and the National Park Service to stage while managing protection measures on the numerous structures in the area.

The Andrew Creek Fire (#366) is burning in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Photo by Dustin Wessel, BLM AFS.

The Andrew Creek Fire (#366) is burning in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Photo by Dustin Wessel, BLM AFS.

All fires are lightning-caused fires including the nearby 6,654-acre Webber Creek Fire (#135) that has been burning since June 4 when the first wave of lightning moved through Alaska. The Eureka Creek Fire is burning directly east of this fire. With the exception of the Dome Creek Fire, the other five are in monitor status because there are not any values at risk of burning. For more information, click on link to read the NPS story.

The BLM AFS Galena Zone that encompasses the western part of Alaska had five new starts since Sunday including the Shungnak River Fire (#360) that threatened a bornite mine. Two smokejumpers parachuted near the fire burning 14 miles north of Shungnak and caught it at nine acres. They were able to contain it Monday night and demobilized Tuesday to join six smokejumpers working on the Hughes Mountain Fire (#363) burning three miles from Hughes on the opposite side of the Koyukuk River. The fire was reported at 25 acres and smoldering, creeping and group torching through black spruce on Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act land. While the fire is not immediately threatening the village, the fire is at the top of a 1,300-foot ridge that is steep and covered with a continuous pocket of timber that leads to Hughes. The four water-scooping Fire Boss airplanes and the Alaska Division of Forestry contracted retardant air tanker are helping the smokejumpers try to contain the fire.

The Edwards Creek Fire (#365) is burning in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Photo by Dustin Wessel, BLM AFS.

The Edwards Creek Fire (#365) is burning in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Photo by Dustin Wessel, BLM AFS.

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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