Dense smoke has prevented fire managers from getting a good look at the Nugget Creek Fire (#323) the past two days but it’s likely the fire burning east of Fairbanks in the Chena River State Recreation Area has grown considerably larger since it was last mapped at 6,937 acres on July 7.
The current rough estimate based on fire activity and reconnaissance flights is approximately 10,000 acres but fire managers are hoping to map the fire from the air when the smoke clears to get a more accurate size up.
The fire was started by lightning on June 21 and is burning along Chena Hot Springs Road between mileposts 29 and 40. The fire remains on the south side of the road and on the south side of the Chena River, though it has burned up to the river’s edge in many spots. The fire is burning in a limited protection area and no suppression has been taken to this point because the fire has remained south of the river and road, as well as east of the South Fork Chena River. There are six firefighters patrolling the fire from the road to check on its progress.
Fire managers flew over the fire Tuesday and reported the south end of the fire that is farthest from the river and road was the most active portion of the fire. The fire continues backing to the west but has not crossed the South Fork Chena River near Mile 29.
Fire managers also checked on the status of the Nugget Creek public-use cabin during Tuesday’s flight. The cabin, located on the east bank of the South Fork Chena River, has pumps, hose and sprinklers set up around it for protection against the fire. The fire had burned over a helispot that was cut out at the cabin and had also burned up to the east side of the cabin but the cabin was intact. Firefighters were not able to land at the cabin to turn the pumps on because the helispot had been compromised by the burn over.
Firefighters are assessing structures in the Pleasant Valley community west of the fire in the event the fire crosses the South Fork Chena River and continues advancing west.
SAFETY: The fire is visible from the road and motorists are asked to avoid stopping along the roadside to take pictures or watch the fire so as not to pose a safety hazard to themselves or other motorists. Motorists are also advised to drive with care in the fire area along Chena Hot Springs Road, and to watch for fire apparatus entering and exiting the highway near mile 37.7.
CLOSURES: Alaska State Parks has closed both the Nugget Creek public-use cabin and the Mastodon Trail leading to it until further notice. The trailhead is located at mile 38.6 Chena Hot Springs Road. The Granite Tors Trail at mile 39 is also closed. River access roads at miles 37.7 and 39 have also been closed. For more information on closures in the state rec area contact Alaska State Parks at 451-2695 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on current road conditions, visit http://511.alaska.gov.