Personnel flying Oregon Lakes Fire on Tuesday reported minimal fire activity and some smoke coming from unburned interior pockets of vegetation within the fire’s perimeter. The fire burning in the Donnelly Training Area southwest of Delta Junction was placed in monitor status June 10 after the fire area received substantial precipitation. The fire area continues to receive occasional rain, keeping fire potential subdued. The BLM Alaska Fire Service Military Zone personnel will continue to monitor the fire with regular reconnaissance flights. The fire has burned an estimated 34,499 acres since it started on April 30.
Before crews demobilized from the fire this past weekend, firefighters constructed protection lines and left some structure protection equipment in place in the communities of Whitestone, South Bank and Richardson Clearwater. This allows firefighters to quickly re-engage efforts if needed. However, fire managers don’t anticipate that will happen in the near future due to the area receiving rain on several occasions, making the vegetation lush and green and keeping fire activity low.
Wherever possible, firefighters used natural features with sparse vegetation to locate the protection lines. The goal was to create shaded fuelbreaks, which involves selectively thinning and removing more flammable understory vegetation while leaving the majority of larger, more fire tolerant tree species in place. Shaded fuelbreaks leave tundra shaded to avoid either excessive drying of fuels or the melting of permafrost. Firefighters also marked and mapped areas around private property to add additional fuelbreaks if needed. These areas of defensible space created for this fire could be necessary this summer if conditions are warm and dry and the fire has opportunities to advance. This is in addition to another fuelbreak, the shear blade line, constructed over the past five years by the U.S. Army in conjunction with BLM Alaska Fire Service Military Zone in recognition that the area is prone to rapidly growing wildfires. The line, combined with the winter trail, was used by crews to conduct burn operations early in the efforts on the Oregon Lakes Fire to remove burnable vegetation to reduce the likelihood it would spread. With the exception of one small area, the fire has so far kept to the south of this line.
Because it is still early in the fire season, expect the fire to become more active and produce smoke during periods of warm and dry weather. If the fire behavior increases and moves to the north, fire managers will be able to coordinate suppression efforts based on the strategic plans considering the safety of firefighters and the public while taking into account the values at risk including military assets, state timber and recreational values, private homes, and the impact of smoke on the communities of Delta Junction, Salcha, North Pole and Fairbanks.
Since Delta Junction area is fire-prone, the public is encouraged to take steps to minimize the impact of a fire to their property well ahead of any threat from a wildfire. More information is available through the Delta Area Forestry Prevention office at (907)895-4225 or Firewise online information.
For more information regarding the Oregon Lakes Fire, email 2019_akmid_OregonLakes@firenet.gov; call (208)254-1130 or subscribe to updates through akfireinfo.com.