Several fires throughout the eastern Interior are showing extreme fire behavior with the warm temperatures and very dry fuels. Fires are growing in size and persist in spreading smoke across the region. The Upper Yukon Fire Management Zone, which covers the eastern interior, continues to experience above normal fire conditions and resources to respond to new fires are stretched thin.
Air support is limited due to heavy smoke and reduced visibility. Where feasible, crews are resorting to boats for transport and supplies. Northeasterly winds and dry thunderstorms are forecast for today. As the smoke begins to clear from over the fires, fire activity is likely to increase. Any lightning associated with the thunderstorm activity will bring a high probability for new ignitions.
Twenty-three fires are burning within the Upper Yukon Fire Management Zone, including one new start. Here is a breakdown of the fires of most interest burning in the Yukon Flats and surrounding areas:
Chalkyitsik Complex – The Type 3 Incident Management Organization continues to set up at the Chalkyitsik school. They are managing the Bearnose Hill Fire (#407) and Frozen Calf (#367) fires. The K-River crew, made up of a squad of emergency firefighters from Hughes, Allakaket and Huslia, and the BLM Alaska Fire Service Chena Hotshot Crew are also now based in Chalkyitsik. Additional resources have been ordered, including aviation support and smokejumpers. Seventy-nine firefighters, including the Chena Hotshots, BLM AFS North Star Crew, and Folsom Lake Veterans Crew (Calif.), are assigned to work on structure protection near a lake approximately 4 miles south of Chalkyitsik. Crews are also working on structure protection for several cabins along the Black River. They are cutting vegetation around allotments and cabins, and setting up hoses to prepare for potential burning around the allotments if conditions allow. The fires near Chalkyitsik have spread predominantly to the west. The most recent mapping for the fire was on July 7, with the size of #407 estimated at 21,272 acres. Fire #367 was estimated at 110,000 acres, with active to moderate spread and active burning in the interior of the fire. Smoke shaded the area through most of the day yesterday, which helped to moderate fire behavior and limited aviation use due to low visibility. Fuel conditions remain extremely dry, promoting rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior.
Yukon Charley Fire (#217) – Firefighters continue to assess and plan for allotment protection. Supplies and equipment are difficult to get to the incident due to shortage of transport options and heavy smoke, which is limiting visibility and aviation use. Firefighters plan to complete preparations on Yukon-Charley Fire (#217) and then cross the Yukon River to work on the Biederman Bluff Fire (#392). Fire growth was minimal with backing, creeping and occasional single-tree torching. The fire is still estimated at 1,049 acres.
Hadweenzic River Fire (#337) – The Mad River Interagency Hotshot Crew from Mad River, Calif. arrives on the incident today to assist with fire management operations. They will get familiar with the allotments in the area and begin saw work this afternoon. Firefighters are making progress with preparations around established and occupied camps in the area. Contact with the public is ongoing and emergency evacuation plans have been made. The fire behavior was reported as burning in the treetops with short-range spotting, backing and flanking. Smoke in the area reduced visibility and limited aviation use on the incident. Current acreage is estimated at 30,538.
Chandalar River Fire (#349) – Firefighters are improving potential control lines and establish hose lays around the nearest allotments on this 4,592-acre fire. Fire activity remains high, but the fire did not experience as much growth as in previous days. Smoke over the incident impacted aviation use. The Modoc Interagency Hotshots, an Type 2 initial attack crew from Canby, Calif. is expected to arrive today to assist with the incident.
Multiple sources of information on smoke are located on the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Air Quality web page.
For more information, contact the Alaska Interagency Fire Information Office at (907)356-5511 or email 2019.AFS.FIRES@gmail.com.