Firefighters continue to strengthen line on Oregon Lakes Fire

This video from a flyover the evening of May 15, 2019 shows the firing operation burning south of the containment line. Video by Karen Scholl, Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team

The Oregon Lakes Fire more than doubled in size after thundercells moved in with gusty winds that merged the fire and burn operation together last night. The fire is now outside the impact area, but is still south of the winter trail and shear line, the existing fuel breaks that firefighters have been utilizing.

Graphic with fire statistics.

The past few days of firing has removed the burnable vegetation between the fire and pre-existing fuel breaks from the Lester Line on the east to the Douglas Creek on the west. Firefighters, aided by heavy equipment, will spend today fortifying firebreaks, anticipating afternoon thundercells and southerly winds. Removing the fuel in front of the fire significantly reduces chances the fire will spread, keeping the fire to the smallest footprint possible and decreasing the threat to values at risk farther to the north.

Yesterday, erratic winds from passing thunderstorms drove the fire north where crews were working with heavy equipment to extend the firebreak west of Douglas Creek. Retardant air tankers from Palmer and Fairbanks kept the advancing fire in check allowing firefighters and heavy equipment to safely redirect their firebreak construction along the winter trail.

Photo of the Oregon Lakes fire as it pushed west of the Douglas Creek on May 15, 2019.
In the foreground, firefighters, aided by heavy equipment, work on extending a firebreak farther west past Douglas Creek ahead of the firing operation as it burned to the west northwest Wednesday night. Thundercells moved into the area that evening, bringing erratic winds that pushed the fire farther north. Firefighters pulled back and continued work along the winter trail that branches to the right in this photo. Photo by Karen Scholl, Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team.

Spruce trees in pre-green up had been resistant to burning, however, with the warm, dry, windy conditions, the fire was able to move through the trees along with the grass that had been the dominant fuel source. This will continue to change as the summer progresses. Because conditions are also becoming drier around the state, any of the crews assigned to the Oregon Lakes fire will be available for an initial attack response.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) in place over the fire area but was extended to prevent outside aircraft, including military aircraft, from interfering with the suppression efforts.

The burn operation will provide an obstacle to prevent the fire’s movement north, but will not put this early-season fire out. Since the Delta area is prone to wildfires, 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 or Firewise online information.

Forecasted weather:  Warmer and drier weather is forecast this morning until later today when a thermal trough is predicted to move over the fire area bringing isolated thunderstorms. Today’s southerly winds will range from 5-13 mph with gusts up to 25 mph. There is a chance for rain tomorrow morning, then isolated showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon.

For more information, contact Public Information Officer Beth Ipsen at (907)388-2159 or eipsen@blm.gov.

Map of Oregon Lakes Fire on May 16, 2019
Map of Oregon Lakes Fire on May 16, 2019.

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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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