Crews to start saw line operations up Cleary Creek Drainage – Hess Creek Fire Update 7/16/19

Hess Creek Fire Progression map 7/16/19

Firefighters continue to actively monitor weather patterns to prepare for an increase in fire activity on the #HessCreekFire should warmer weather occur. Higher humidity and lower temperatures are limiting fire spread. However, because black spruce needles and branches are highly resinous and usually distributed continuously from ground to treetop, they ignite and burn easily. Black spruce is one of the most flammable vegetation types in Interior Alaska. Feather moss, along with black spruce, respond rapidly to weather conditions. Even in wet conditions or after experiencing a soaking rain, the fuels can dry out quickly and begin moving quickly through the tree crowns. Firefighters remain alert and ready to engage should activity pick up again.

Cleaning up the spot fire areas

In preparation for possible movement, firefighters will begin cutting a saw line north of the Elliott Highway up the Cleary Creek Drainage to tie into the black. The line will be plumbed with hose and provide a solid anchor point should firefighters need to conduct burnout operations along the Elliott Highway. The burnout operation would allow the team to introduce fire in a controlled manner and reduce the intensity of the wildfire by removing its fuel source next to the road.

Crews also bolstered lines around the two spot fires south of the Elliott Highway. The thick vegetation and moss along the forest floor continues to burn within the containment lines. Due to the nature of the fuel, it’s been time intensive work as firefighters deal with snags falling across the lines. Crews will likely work the two spots for the next several days. Motorists can expect to see smoke crossing the highway as trees continue to burn within the interior.

An aerial reconnaissance flight around the Hess Creek Fire yesterday showed active movement along the northeast boundary. The fire was holding steady in the hardwoods along the west, south and eastern perimeters. Fire officials expect acreage will increase as the fire burns through the black spruce to the north.

Fire Behavior and Weather:  At 6:00 p.m. temperatures reached 79 degrees with a humidity in the mid-30s. Winds held steady between 2-6 mph with gusts up to 10 mph out of the west/ southwest. Isolated thunderstorms are expected as a weak front pushes north and west into the Southern Interior today especially this afternoon and evening just south of the fire. A weak thermal trough just north of the fire will also be the focus for isolated thunderstorms this afternoon and evening. The isolated thunderstorms should initially occur over the higher terrain and then along any outflow boundaries that form. Firefighter expect good relative humidity (RH) recovery at night.

Public Awareness: For current road conditions, go to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities’ 511.alaska.gov website. Stay up-to-date on current air quality information by visiting: https://fires.airfire.org/outlooks/Alaska.

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