Upper Yukon Fire Zone: As Expected, Significant Increase in Fire Activity

Several fires in the Upper Yukon Fire Zone saw a significant increase in fire activity on Saturday.  This increase did not come as a surprise for the firefighters. Many days of hot, dry weather caused by a high pressure weather system that has covered much of the state created the perfect fuel conditions for fire runs. Many fire weather indices for the Upper Yukon have fallen into High, Very High and Extreme categories. 

A change in the weather pattern, for at least a day or two, is expected in the area late Sunday into Monday. Some wetting rains, predicted to move east across the Interior, may calm fire activity temporarily. However, another high pressure ridge is expected to build up over much of the state again on Tuesday. This pressure system may, once again, support increased fire activity for the foreseeable future.

The Alaska State Fire Marshall’s Office and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry’s suspension on fireworks sales and use across much of the state remains in effect. 

There are 27 fires burning within the Upper Yukon Fire Management Zone that covers the eastern Interior.

Here is a breakdown of the lightning-caused fires of most interest burning in the Yukon Flats and surrounding areas:

Black River Fire (#262) – This 15,146-acre fire is burning in a Limited Management Option area. Better mapping reduced the fire to its current acreage by 1,354 acres. After their initial assessment, firefighters noted significant fire growth to the east, which may run into marshy areas, potentially assisting with suppression efforts. There are two known structures on two allotments some distance in the opposite direction from the fire front. Smoke from the Tractor Trail 2 Fire (#348) made firefighter visibility and air support for the crews difficult. Structure protection is underway, but dense hardwood stands are slowing progress.

Victoria Mountain Fire (#329) – Firefighters made good progress on Saturday on this 994-acre fire amidst high temperatures. The fire saw a 494-acre growth in the last two days. A few hot spots were identified and cooled in the center of the fire. 

Hadweenzic River Fire (#337) – Firefighters are progressing on this 11,144-acre fire. A nearby allotment on the western side of the fire is fully prepped and crews are putting on the finishing touches with structure protection. The Midnight Sun Hotshot crew is expected to move on to complete work on the eastern allotment today. Two helipsots have been put in on either side of the eastern allotment. These helispots will support any rapid needs for medevacs or crew movement. There was significant fire growth and movement to the east, yesterday, away from firefighters and allotments. 

Tiinkdhul Lake Fire (#342)  – This 50-acre fire started on June 22 and is located approximately 18 miles southeast of Chalkyitsik and just east of Tiinkdhul Lake. In recent days, the interior of the fire had high intensity heat, creating large, deep ash pits. Burned roots are causing black spruce trees to topple, creating heavily jackstrawed areas. Crews are working on cooling those hot spots and clearing trees on the perimeter of the fire. There are 31 firefighters on the fire. Crews are continually checking for spot fires in the surrounding unburned areas. The fire remained quiet on Saturday, despite warm and windy conditions.

Tractor Trail 2 Fire (#348) This fire is approximately 38 miles southeast of Fort Yukon in a Limited Management Option area. Saturday’s weather caused large increases in fire spread, with continued tree torching throughout the day. The fire size was estimated at 2,366 acres on Saturday. The nearest allotment is 3 to 4 miles away from the fire’s edge. Other allotments are approximately 10 to 15 miles away from the fire.

Chandalar River Fire (#349) This is currently a 700-acre fire burning in a Limited Management Option area. The fire was discovered on June 22 and has a 100% active fire perimeter. Eight smokejumpers arrived on scene to start fire suppression efforts. Fire behavior is displaying continuous crowning with 30 ft flame lengths and moderate rates of spread. The fire is nearing a Modified Management Option area that is 2 miles southwest of Venetie and the Christian River Fire (#379) with the nearest Native allotment at one-third of a mile away. 

Eagle Fire (#355) – This lightning-caused fire started on June 23 and is estimated at 70 acres. Of all the fires in the Upper Yukon Fire Zone, the Eagle Fire saw the least amount of fire activity. Firefighters took advantage of cooler weather and higher relative humidity to make significant progress on fire containment. Firefighters now estimate containment at 50% up from 17% just yesterday. Minimal fire growth is expected over the next couple of days.

Christian River Fire (#379) The 180-acre fire near the Christian River was detected on June 25 and is in a Full Management Option area. Firefighters reported that the fire is holding better than it has in the past few days. The fire continues to burn in steep, rocky terrain, but the firefighters are making their way up the 300-ft bluff to continue fire suppression efforts. The fire is estimated at 20% containment.

Bearnose Hill Fire (#407)This 200-acre fire was discovered late afternoon on June 29 and is burning in a Modified Management Option area located between the Tiinkdhul Lake (#342) and Tractor Trail 2 (#348) fires. There are no structures within the area. Currently, resources are not assigned to this fire.

For information on smoke particulate matter and the location and direction of smoke please visit the University of Alaska Fairbanks Wildfire Smoke Prediction for Alaska web page.

For more information, contact the Alaska Interagency Fire Information Office at (907)356-5511 or email 2019.AFS.FIRES@gmail.com.

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