More firefighters join suppression efforts as weather increases fire activity

Graphic with May 13, 2019 fire statistics. Firefighters and aircraft worked late into the evening Sunday to suppress an estimated 240-acre section of the firing operation that slopped over the containment line. Firefighters were burning a roughly 3-mile long grassy section along a fire break when the winds picked up and caused the fire to move north of the line. Firefighters, aided by heavy equipment and a helicopter, were burning the grass along a fuel break about 2 miles north of a military training impact area where the Oregon Lakes Fire is burning. Removing the dead grass in front of the fire significantly reduces the chances the fire will spread and threaten values at risk. As standard when conducting burn operations, additional aircraft were on standby. Also, part of normal burning procedures, as firefighters burned along the line, other members of the White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew watched for possible spotting. Firefighters quickly noticed the wind-driven fire spreading through the dry grass.

Photo of smoke from a slop over of the containment line.

Winds picked up while firefighters were conducting a burn operation along a fuel break north of the fire and created spot fires north of the line. Photo by John Stuchell, Fire Behavior Analyst

Two air tankers and two helicopters mobilized to help while another airplane circled above the fire area to coordinate the suppression efforts in the air and on the ground. The tankers dropped retardant to box in the slop over while helicopters dropped buckets of water and worked with firefighters on the ground.

People will continue to see more activity around Delta Junction as aircraft and more firefighters join the effort to contain the new fire growth and finish the primary burn operation. Two BLM Alaska Fire Service Hotshot Crews arrived in Delta Junction Sunday night and will join the firefighters already in place to help as warmer weather moves into the area. A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in place over the firet o prevent outside aircraft, including military aircraft, from interfering with the suppression efforts.

While the grass has been very receptive to burning, the spruce and birch trees have been resistant to fire. This will likely change with the warmer, drier conditions forecasted this week.

Photo of smoke produced as the primary fire hit a pocked of unburned fuel within the fire's perimeter.

The black smoke seen over the fire around midday Sunday was created by the fire hitting an area with dead and down trees and dead grasses. It created a short burst of activity including 3-foot-flames. Photo by John Stuchell, Fire Behavior Analyst

The burn produced white smoke yesterday with nearby black smoke coming from an interior pocket of dead and down trees burning on the northeast side of the main fire. The Delta River drainage is known for southerly winds that could push the fire through quick-burning dead grass. By conducting the firing operation now, firefighters can remove the fine fuels before warmer, drier weather.

A Division of Forestry helicopter responded to assist from a small fire near Rainbow Lake where Delta Area firefighters were mopping up after an abandoned campfire was reported. This further illustrates how problematic the dry windy conditions are in the area, and are predicted to get worse. The Delta area is fire-prone, with this in mind, the public is encouraged to take steps to minimize the impact of a fire to their property. More information is available through the Delta Area Forestry Prevention office at (907)895-4225 orFirewise online information.

Map of Oregon Lakes Fire for May 13, 2019

Map of Oregon Lakes Fire for May 13, 2019. Click on link PIO_e_land_20190513__OregonLakes_AKMID077_opt for PDF version of map.

The burn operation will provide a buffer to prevent the fire’s movement north, but will not put this early-season fire out. The fire is not immediately threatening any structures, private property, state timber or military infrastructure.Firefighters will remain on scene to ensure there is a solid black area to prevent the fire from moving north. After this burned area is secure and firefighters leave, BLM Alaska Fire Service Military Zone personnel will continue to monitor the fire with regular reconnaissance flights. Smoke may be visible at times as it continues to burn throughout the summer.  Should conditions change, the Alaska Team provided theMilitary Zone a plan to act to protect the values at risk while considering the safety of firefighters and the public.

Forecasted weather:  Warmer and drier weather is forecast to continue into Wednesday. Temperatures could push into the upper 60s with relative humidity levels in the mid- to upper-teens. Southerly winds will range from 5-14 mph with gusts up to 20 mph. A chance of thunderstorms near the fire area is expected Wednesday but there is no chance of wetting rains.

BLM Alaska Fire Service Chena Interagency Hotshots unload their gear shortly arriving at a staging area for the Oregon Lakes Fire Sunday night. The Midnight Sun and Chena Hotshots are joining the suppression efforts on the fire today. Photo by Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS

BLM Alaska Fire Service Chena Interagency Hotshots unload their gear shortly arriving at a staging area for the Oregon Lakes Fire Sunday night. The Midnight Sun and Chena Hotshots are joining the suppression efforts on the fire today. Photo by Beth Ipsen, 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.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: