Firefighters continue aggressive assault on Caribou Creek Fire east of Fairbanks

Firefighters on the ground and in the air continued to attack a wildfire burning about 25 miles east of Fairbanks on Monday.

This picture of the Caribou Creek Fire burning north of Chena Hot Springs Road near Mile 18 was taken at approximately 4:30 p.m. Monday and shows where the fire burned uphill though black spurce before it ran into a stand of hardwoods.. hoto bPy Carlton Story/Alaska Division of Foresry

The Caribou Creek Fire is burning about 7 ½ miles north of Chena Hot Springs Road near Mile 18. The fire was mapped at 383 acres by firefighters on Monday, a decrease of more than 100 acres from Sunday’s initial estimate of 500 acres, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Helicopters and water-scooping aircraft continued strategic water drops as more firefighters arrived Monday to bolster ground forces already working on the fire. Three 20-person crews were flown into different parts of the fire on Monday to begin building containment lines to corral the blaze, boosting the total number of personnel working on the fire to more than 100.

The fire is not accessible by road and given its remote location is suspected to be a holdover from lightning strikes in the area during the past several days.

Fire behavior on Monday had moderated significantly since the fire was reported at around 5:45 p.m. Sunday, partly due to an aggressive aerial assault during initial attack and partly because the fire ran into a stand of hardwoods at the top of a ridge that slowed it’s progress. Previously, the fire had been burning uphill through black spruce and was producing a large smoke column visible from North Pole and Chena Hot Springs Road.

Smoke from the fire wafted into Fairbanks on Monday morning before the air cleared but the smoke could return, depending on wind direction and fire activity.

The fire is burning on the north side of Caribou Creek and east of the Little Chena River. The primary objectives are to keep the fire east of the Little Chena River; north of the Little Chena Dozer Line, which was constructed as a potential containment line for the Boundary Fire in 2004; and west of a handful of recreational cabins that are located on the east side of the fire. No structures or homes are immediately threatened by the fire.

A map showing the location of the Caribou Creek Fire approximately 7 1/2-miles north of Chena Hot Springs Road near Mile 18. For a downloadable PDF version of the map go to Caribou Creek Fire PDF map

The fire was reported at 5:45 p.m. Sunday by numerous callers who reported seeing a large smoke column in the area. The Alaska Division of Forestry’s Fairbanks Area office mounted an aggressive initial attack response to the fire, sending a helitack load of five firefighters and three engines to the fire. The fire perimeter was reported to be 100 percent active, burning in black spruce with 7-foot high flame lengths. The fire was not accessible by road and two loads of smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service were ordered for the fire.

Multiple aircraft were also sent to the fire for water and retardant drops. Air attack, an air retardant tanker, four helicopters and two water-scooping aircraft were working on the fire at different points.

The 20-person Chena Interagency Hosthot Crew was shuttled into the fire by helicopter late Sunday night and three more crews – the Tanana Chiefs Type 2 Initial Attack Crew and two Type 2 emergency firefighting hand crews from Fairbanks – were inserted into strategic points around the fire on Monday.

A helibase and staging area for firefighting personnel has been set up at Two Rivers Elementary School near Mile 18 of Chena Hot Springs Road and motorists in that area are advised to use caution for firefighting vehicles on the roadway.

A Temporary Flight Restriction is in place in the area for up to 6,000 feet elevation to provide a safe airspace for firefighting aircraft working on the fire.

For more information, contact the Alaska Interagency Fire Information Office at (907)356-5511.

Caribou Creek Fire PDF map

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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