The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team has scheduled a community meeting at 6 p.m. tonight at the Delta Junction City Hall. Members of the team will give an update on the Oregon Lakes Fire’s progression and present their plan to initiate suppression efforts. Time will be available to answer questions about the fire.
Despite Red Flag conditions, with wind gusts of more than 55 mph, the fire produced little smoke and no movement on Friday. Instead, dust from the Delta River was to blame for the haze that settled over Delta Junction and surrounding areas. Firefighters were unable to fly reconnaissance due to the winds, but kept an eye on the fire area throughout the day from a nearby ridge. They reported only seeing a few small puffs of smoke.
The team is preparing to burn a roughly 3-mile long grassy section along a fire break constructed by the military over the past three years. Burning the grass along this fuel break, about 2 miles north of a military training impact area where the fire is burning, will remove the burnable vegetation in front of the fire. This action is for when south winds funnel through Alaska Range along the Delta River drainage as they typically do in the area. If conditions allow, the burn operation could be ignited as early as Sunday.
The fire has been burning mostly in downed trees from the 2013 Mississippi Fire and dry, dead grass. The fire remains in an area that is unsafe for firefighters and low-flying fire suppression aircraft due to the likelihood of unexploded ordinance on the ground. While it has been burning in this inaccessible area, the team was busy formulating a short- and long-term strategy for the early-season fire. The team met with fire managers and agency administrators from 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 yesterday to finalize a course of action.
The fire is not immediately threatening any structures, private property or military infrastructure, giving the team time to come up with the plan while remaining poised to act if needed. The community of Whitestone, which was threatened by the Mississippi Fire, is roughly 14 miles to the north and a state timber area is about 7 miles to the northeast. Both are on the west side of the Delta River.
Forecasted weather: A Red Flag Warning remains in effect through 6 p.m. today. A trough of low pressure north of the fire area settled in yesterday, bringing strong, southerly winds. The strongest winds of this event occurred during the overnight. The winds will gradually decrease during the day today and significantly die down on Sunday as a high pressure moves in. A warm trend is expected Monday through Wednesday with no wetting rain expected over the area for the next week.