Shovel Creek Fire 8am July 5th Update: Fire Crews Begin Strategic Firing Operations Today

Sawyer Cuts Fireline on July 4th 2019
Firefighters have been preparing indirect firelines and are ready to initiate a strategic firing operation to establish containment lines today. Photo credit: J Michael Johnson/PNW2

Pacific Northwest Team 2 will host a community meeting at the Ken Kunkle Community Center (2645 Goldstream Road, Fairbanks AK) Friday, July 5 at 6:00 p.m. Shovel Creek Fire Incident Commander Rob Allen and guest speakers will provide the current situation, fire behavior update, weather forecast and evacuation changes. A question and answer session will follow the meeting which will also be streamed live at: https://www.facebook.com/FNSBEmergencyOperations.

A thoroughly planned firing operation will commence Friday when favorable conditions align. Temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction and fuel moisture are some of the key factors that will dictate the time and duration of this burnout operation. The goal is to secure a solid control line along established fuel breaks to keep the wildfire on the north side of Old Murphy Dome Road and west of McCloud Subdivision.

Shovel Creek Fire map for July 5th 2019.

A test fire will begin at approximately 11:00 a.m. near Murphy Dome to determine fuel receptivity. When conditions are favorable, the firing operation will begin just north of the Martin Neighborhood in the Murphy Creek drainage and along Old Murphy Dome Rd. From there, the burn team will move west until they reach Murphy Dome and connect to solid containment lines. Once this is completed, firefighters will hold and secure the burn and reassess conditions to determine whether to continue or suspend firing operations further east.

A water tender operator fills a portable storage tank on Old Murphy Dome Road. Photo credit: J Michael Johnson/PNW2
A water tender operator fills a portable storage tank on Old Murphy Dome Road. Photo credit: J Michael Johnson/PNW2

The burn team consists of a firing boss, 4 hotshot crews, a strike team of engines, 4 water tenders, and other fireline supervisors. Additional firefighting resources will be on hand to help support the firing operation including crews, engines, and aircraft. Aviation resources available to support Friday’s missions include; 2 heavy helicopters, 3 medium helicopter, 2 light helicopters, Fire Bosses, and air tankers. Structure protection groups will maintain readiness in and around nearby neighborhoods.

Crews will continue securing the fire’s edge along the west flank from Murphy Dome to the 15 Mile trail and south from the Chatanika River into the Hardluck Fire scar. Structure protection will continue for homes, cabins and outbuildings along the Chatanika River corridor, and in the Martin, Perfect Perch, Lincoln, Murphy and McCloud neighborhoods.

EVACUATION ALERTS:

·       LEVEL 1 (READY) 741Structures – Chatanika River Corridor, Drouin (41), Hardluck (104), Moose Mountain (440), Coyote Jones (41),and Hattie Creek (26) neighborhoods

·       LEVEL 2 (SET) 180 Structures – Lincoln Creek (64), Murphy (19), McCloud (40), and Vancouver (57) neighborhoods

·       LEVEL 3 (GO) 52 Structures – Martin (42) and Perfect Perch (10) neighborhoods

An evacuation shelter has been established at Randy Smith School (1401 Bainbridge Blvd, Fairbanks, AK) to accommodate evacuees. A temporary pet shelter is located at the Tanana Fairgrounds. For more information about evacuation levels issued by the Fairbanks North Star Borough, please visit http://fnsb.us/eo/Pages/EM.aspx, or call (907) 459-1308.

RESOURCES: 8 hotshot crews, 11 type 2 handcrews, 31 engines, 12 dozers, 7 helicopters, and 12 water tenders

WEATHER: Friday marks the beginning of a warming and drying trend that will dry out fine fuels that comprise the tundra. This weather pattern is expected to promote more active fire behavior. High temperatures are forecasted to be in the mid-70’s to lower 80’s and low relative humidity from 30 to 40 percent.

CLOSURES: The Alaska National Guard is currently staffing three road closures; (1) Spinach Creek Rd. and Old Murphy Dome Rd. junction (2) Murphy Dome Rd. and Old Murphy Dome Rd. junction (3) Access to Murphy Dome at Murphy Dome Rd. and 15 Mile Trail. Travel may be delayed for those wishing to access the boat launch via Murphy Dome Rd. 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_5441.html

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