Cooler temperatures and higher relative humidities on Sunday helped moderate fire behavior on the Shovel Creek Fire (#319), burning approximately 20 miles northwest of Fairbanks.
As of Monday morning, the fire which is 3 miles north of Murphy Dome was estimated at 650 acres and there were 146 personnel working to contain the fire, which was started by lightning on Friday.
The Alaska Type 2 Green Incident Management Team took command of the fire from a Type 3 IMT at 7 a.m. Monday. The team is based at an incident command post at Moose Mountain Ski Resort in the Goldstream Valley.
While some areas around Fairbanks received substantial rain on Saturday and Sunday, less than one-tenth of an inch of rain fell in the area of the fire. However, the cooler temperatures and moister air did give firefighters a chance to work on strengthening containment lines on the eastern edge of the fire along 7 Mile Trail.
There are six 20-person crews assigned to the fire, including five Type 1 hotshot crews from the Lower 48. More crews have been ordered and should be arriving at the fire in the next day or two.
Air tankers were used on Sunday to drop five loads of retardant along the north flank of the fire closest to the Chatanika River where the fire broke through a retardant line on Saturday and made a push toward cabins located along the Chatanika River the confluence of Shovel Creek. The fire remains approximately 1 ¼ miles south of the structures along the river.
The weather is expected to get warmer and drier for the next several days and firefighters will continue to take direct action on the eastern edge of the fire. Firefighters are also continuing to assess and prep structures that could be threatened along the Chatanika River if the fire continues to move in that direction. Firefighters are also assessing possible structure protection measures for two subdivisions located east of the fire on Murphy Dome.
Fire managers are focusing efforts on keeping the fire between Shovel Creek on the west and the 7 Mile Trail to the east. The 7 Mile Trail runs from the top of Murphy Dome down to the Chatanika River and the fire is paralleling the trail. Firefighters are working to prevent the fire from crossing 7 Mile Trail and climbing over a ridge to the east where it could potentially get established in what is known as Blueberry drainage, the first in a series of drainages leading up to Murphy Dome. On the south edge of the fire closest to Murphy Dome, high alpine tundra at the top of the Shovel Creek drainage forms a natural barrier that will deter fire spread to the south toward subdivisions on the east and south sides of Murphy Dome.
Crews are pumping water from Shovel Creek to lay hose lines along the lower portions of 7 Mile Trail and water tenders on top of Murphy Dome are being used to run water down the upper portion of the trail because it’s too steep to pump water up.
Smoke from the Shovel Creek Fire and other fires in the area may produce smoke that could impact Fairbanks and outlying areas.
Residents in the area are asked to avoid the Murphy Dome area due to the firefighting activity and the potential for interfering with fire personnel. A Temporary Flight Restriction is in place in the air space over the fire. Pilots are advised to check NOTAMS at https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_9_0263.html.
For more information, contact the Alaska interagency wildfire information office at (907) 356-5511.