After nearly a month of hard work, firefighters on Saturday bid farewell to the Caribou Creek Fire (#255) east of Fairbanks and north of the community of Two Rivers.
The final 14 personnel working on the 257-acre fire were flown off the fireline by helicopter on Saturday and will soon be heading to work on other fires burning across Alaska. The fire was officially listed at 98 percent containment but the fire has not shown any growth in more than two weeks and crews have spent the bulk of that time mopping up the containment line and cold trailing for hot spots to ensure the fire does not creep outside the control line.
Firefighters got a helping hand from Mother Nature in the form of rain during the last week that doused the fire and calmed what little fire activity remained in the interior of the fire. No smoke in the fire areas has been visible for several days.
The Caribou Creek Fire was started by lightning on June 16 on a remote ridge about 7 ½ miles north of Chena Hot Springs Road near milepost 18. An aggressive aerial response by aircraft dropping retardant and water on the fire the first few days after it started helped firefighters on the ground get a containment line around the fire and keep it from growing. The steep terrain and significant amount of jackstrawed trees posed a challenge for firefighters cutting a saw line around the fire.
Once the saw line was cut out around the fire perimeter, firefighters had to contend with hundreds of downed trees that had been blown over by wind or fell after their root systems were burned in the fire. The steep terrain also posed a challenge for firefighters. At it’s peak, more than 150 firefighters were assigned to the fire.
The fire also proved to be a logistical challenge because it was not accessible by road and all personnel and equipment had to be shuttled into and out of the fire by helicopter from a helibase set up in Two Rivers.