Another round of Red Flag Conditions expected on the Oregon Lakes Fire today

Photo of Casey Boespflug, with pointer, briefs a group of representatives from the BLM Eastern Interior Field Office, State of Alaska, Department of Defense, the Alaska Wildland Fire Coordinating Group, on a strategic plan the Alaska Incident Management Team has been working on for the past few days. Photo by Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS

Casey Boespflug, with pointer, briefs a group of representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, State of Alaska, Department of Defense and the Alaska Wildland Fire Coordinating Group, on a long-term strategic plan the Alaska Incident Management Team has been working on for the past few days. Photo by Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS

The Alaska Incident Management Team is wrapping up its long-term strategic planning just in time to be tested by dry and windy weather forecasted to move into the Oregon Lakes Fire area for the second time since it started on April 30.

Graphic for Oregon Lakes FireThe National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning from noon through Saturday afternoon. Forecasted winds could cause rapid fire growth and likely lead to very visible smoke in Delta Junction and communities to the north of the fire. Strong southerly chinook winds will develop this afternoon along the north side of the Alaska Range and will continue through Saturday afternoon. South winds of 25-35 mph with gusts to 55 mph are possible near Delta Junction. Minimum relative humidity levels are expected to fall into the 20-30% range this afternoon and in the 25-30% range on Saturday afternoon in the Tanana Valley.

The first wind test, last Tuesday, was preceded by three days of cooler wetter weather and resulted in little growth, but lots of smoke. Yesterday’s warmer temperatures dried some of the fuels, which could make the difference in today’s fire activity. Regardless, smoke will likely impact nearby communities to the north.

For the second day in a row, only a few puffs of smoke were visible, mostly on the southern end, where the fire reached the green timber line and settled down. The timber, which is predominately white spruce with some birch, has been resistant to burning unlike the downed trees from a 2013 fire and dry grass where most of the fire activity has occurred. However, that could change as the summer continues with warmer, windier weather that typically persists in the Delta River drainage.

Meanwhile, the IMT will finish developing strategic options for safely protecting values such as private property, military infrastructure, timber, structures and communities from this early-season fire. The IMT is working with the BLM Alaska Fire Service Military Fire Management Zone, the U.S. Army Alaska Garrison, the BLM Eastern Interior Field Office and the Alaska Division of Forestry to develop this long-term plan.

This remote fire was reported at about 1 p.m. on April 30, and so far, has been burning in an area that is unsafe for firefighters and low-flying fire suppression aircraft due to the likelihood of unexploded ordinance on the ground. It is burning mostly in downed trees from the 2013 Mississippi Fire and tall, dry grass on the west of the Delta River. It is burning in a limited protection area which typically means the fire will be left to function in its normal ecological role unless it threatens any structures or resources. It is not immediately threatening any structures, private property or military infrastructure. The community of Whitestone, which was threatened by the Mississippi Fire, is roughly 14 miles to the north and the state timber area is about 7 miles to the northeast. Both are on the west side of the Delta River.

Photo of a few puffs of smoke were seen from from the northeast corner during an evening flight on the Oregon Lakes Fire on May 9, 2019. Photo by Branden Kobayshi

Just a few puffs of smoke were seen from from the northeast corner during an evening flight on the Oregon Lakes Fire on May 9, 2019. Photo by Branden Kobayshi

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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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