Fire Crews prepare for potential increase in fire activity in Yukon Fire Zone

Continued high temperatures and low relative humidity in the Yukon Fire Zone have dried fuels and increased the likelihood of additional fire. Weather forecasts call for dry lightning and increased winds in the area through Sunday. Fire managers expect an increase in lightning-caused fires and are re-positioning some smokejumpers and fire crews to be available for initial attack of new starts. Much of the Alaska is under a Red Flag Warning today.

Twenty-five fires are burning within the Upper Yukon Fire Management Zone, but most are not threatening people or property. Six of the fires are staffed with firefighters, who continue to prepare firelines and lay hose near cabins and allotments. Here is a summary of some of the more significant fires burning in the Yukon Flats and surrounding areas:

Chalkyitsik Complex – (407 & 367) – 146,334 acres – 109 firefighters

The Bearnose Hill Fire (#407) pushed north Wednesday, with some backing fire. The Bearnose Hill Fire and the Frozen Calf Fire (#367) are being managed as a complex. A Type 2 Incident Management Team is preparing to assume management of the complex from the current Type 3 Incident Management Organization on Friday. Because the increasing number of firefighters assigned to the complex, a larger organization is needed to support their efforts. Crews are cutting vegetation around Native allotments and cabins to create firebreaks. The Frozen Calf Fire was estimated at 110,000 acres, with active to moderate spread and active burning in the interior of the fire. The Bearnose Hill Fire was last mapped on July 7 and was estimated at 36,344 acres at that time. Dense smoke has limited flights in the Yukon Flats. Reconnaissance and supply delivery flights are scheduled when smoky air clears. Several elders had planned to leave the area do to smoke sensitivity, but decided to stay with the rest of the village.

Yukon Charley Fire (#217) – 1,049 acres – 8 firefighters

Firefighters on Wednesday continued constructing fireline and laying hose around Native allotments. The Yukon Charley Fire was last mapped on July 8 and was estimated at 1,049 acres at that time. Crews plan to cross the Yukon River to work on the Biederman Bluff Fire Thursday.

Biederman Bluff Fire (#392) – 1,834 acres – 8 firefighters

Firefighters are scheduled to arrive at the fire Thursday to establish a helispot and to clear vegetation and set up protective measures at a cabin. The firegrew Wednesday to the north and northeast. Numerous lightning strikes occurred in the evening about 10 miles northeast of the fire in the Kandik River drainage. Firefighters reported dense smoke surrounding the fire this morning.

Hadweenzic River Fire (#337) 34,844 acres – 30 firefighters

Firefighters were able to improve and construct additional fireline and lay hose on the Hadweenzic River Fire Wednesday. When smoke conditions improve, crews will install a radio repeater northeast of the current fire to improve communication between crews and fire managers. In addition to cabins, crews are protecting a fish weir, used to count salmon in the river. Saw work is scheduled today to improve firelines around the bible camp and nearby Native allotments. Currently the fire is six miles from the camp, and three and a half miles from the closest allotment. Acreage is estimated at 34,844.   

Chandalar River Fire (#349) 7,892 acres – 69 firefighters

The fire received about 10 minutes of heavy rain on Wednesday morning, but not enough to extinguish the fire. Dense smoke remained in the area yesterday until afternoon, when the wind increased. Weather conditions were not adequate to attempt any burning operations. Firefighters continued to work on containment lines and hose lays. A five-mile burning operation is planned for today to protect five Native allotments. The fire was last mapped on July 8 at 7,892 acres.

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.

North Stars Hot Shot Crew arrives in Chalkyitsik
Photo Credit Amanda Wright

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