The Taixtsalda Hill Fire (#357) burning southwest of Northway continues to grow due to hot, dry and windy conditions that have persisted for the last week in the eastern Interior. The fire is now estimated at 13,000 acres, an increase of 1,000 acres from Thursday.
The fire started on Monday and is burning in a large expanse of black spruce on Tetlin Native Corporation lands approximately 38 miles southeast of Tok and 14 miles southwest of Northway. Efforts by the 119 firefighters working on the fire are focused on protecting Native allotments and cabins that are threatened by the fire.
The Alaska Division of Forestry will be holding public meetings in Northway and Tok on Friday and Saturday, respectively, to provide current fire information and answer questions about the fire. The meeting in Northway will be held on Friday at 6 p.m. in the Northway Community Hall. The meeting in Tok will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Fast Eddy’s restaurant (Mile 1313 Alaska Highway). Firewise information will be available at both meetings to help residents reduce wildfire risk around their homes.
The warm, dry weather that has been produced by a high pressure system anchored over eastern Alaska is expected to continue for the next five days, though temperatures aren’t expected to be as hot as earlier in the week.
On Thursday afternoon, an unexpected wind shift from the north pushed the fire south closer to where two crews were cutting a saw line around a Native allotment. Fire managers made the decision to pull the North Star and Mooseheart Mountain Type 2 crews out of the area by helicopter for safety reasons. Fire managers are planning to reassess conditions today to determine if it’s safe to reinsert the crews on the allotment to complete work.
Two other Type 2 crews, the UAF Nanooks and Upper Tanana #1, completed a saw line around another allotment to the east of the fire on Thursday. A strategic firing operation to remove unburned fuels around the allotment will be implemented today, if conditions allow.
Fire managers are continuing to identify, assess and inventory other allotments and cabins that may be threatened if the fire continues to grow. They are also developing a long-term plan to identify management action points that will be used to make strategic decisions should the fire reach those points.
Pilots should be aware that a temporary flight restriction has been placed over the fire area to provide a safe environment for firefighting aircraft to work in. There are multiple firefighting aircraft regularly flying in the area. To check on the specific coordinates of the TFR, pilots can go to http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_8_5595.html.
Smoke from the fire is visible from the villages of Northway and Tetlin, as well as the Alaska Highway, but smoke is not impacting the highway. The fire remains roughly 20 miles west of the highway.
For more information about the Taixtsalda Hill Fire, call the fire information line in Tok at (907) 707-9866.