Upper Yukon Zone: High potential for fire growth today

Fire continues to exhibit extreme behavior in parts of the Upper Yukon Zone, which continues to be one of the warmest areas in the state, with relative humidity between 20-30 percent. Continued warm temperatures have dried fuels considerably. Indices that measure fuels and how receptive they are to fire remain in the high to very high range. High measurements indicate that it is very likely to be another day of strong fire growth in the region.

The Upper Yukon Zone has 43 active fires which includes four new starts, and nine staffed fires. Wind gusts greater than 20 mph are expected to continue today which add more complexity to fire operations. Weather forecasts for the weekend project precipitation for many areas in Alaska, although current models indicate rainfall will once again miss the Upper Yukon zone.

Here is a summary of some of the more significant fires burning in the Yukon Flats and surrounding areas:

Chalkyitsik Complex – #466 (Tractor Trail 2 – #348, Frozen Calf Fire – #367, Bearnose Hill Fire – #407, and Tettjajik Creek #424) – 314,833 acres – 232 personnel are assigned to the complex

Columns of smoke rise Thursday evening, July 18, 2019, from where a helicopter has dropped plastic spheres that ignite to catch a broad area black spruce on fire. The tactical firing operation is removing the fuels ahead of the Frozen Calf Fire (#367) to the northeast of Chalkyitsik. Sam Harrel/Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team
Firefighters hand ignite from their control line ahead of the Frozen Calf Fire (#367) on Thursday evening, July 18, 2019. By removing the burnable vegetation along a wide line, an advancing fire will run out of fuel, stopping its forward movement. A drone equipped with a Plastic Sphere Dispensing (PSD) machine was working beyond their control line to add width to line. Sam Harrel/Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team

The Upper Yukon Flats continues to be the hottest and driest area of the state. Temperatures in the area were in the 80s on Thursday and fire behavior was again active on all four fires of the Chalkyitsik Complex. The Tettjajik Creek Fire (#424) was active on its southeast corner, spreading about a mile to the east. The Tractor Trail 2 Fire (#348) was active on its northeast corner and eastern flank; both areas were running with the wind for about 1 – 2 miles in a 1-mile wide swath. There was also some backing to the south on the southern flank. On the Frozen Calf Fire (#367), the southwest corner of the fire had active backing and flanking into the wind south toward the Draanjik River corridor, spreading about 2-miles in that direction. The north flank was active with good rates of growth to the north toward the Porcupine River but remains a little over five miles away from Herbert Village. The Bearnose Hill Fire (#407) was most active on the north flank where it burned through a thick stand of black spruce reaching the Draanjik River and spotting to the other side, about 500 feet across.

Firing operations were started Thursday evening when hand crews ignited control lines to burn off the vegetation ahead of the Frozen Calf Fire, northeast of the village of Chalkyitsik. A helicopter and a drone equipped with Plastic Sphere Dispenser (PSD) machines, which drop ping-pong like balls that ignite, worked in a coordinated effort to widen the burned area ahead of the fire. Without fuels to burn, an advancing fire cannot continue to move toward values at risk.

A map of the Chalkyitsik Complex for Friday, July 19, 2019. For a pdf version of the map, click here.
A map of the Chalkyitsik Complex for Friday, July 19, 2019. For a pdf version of the map, click here.

Cabin sites on Chahalie Lake and the Draanjik River as far as Nelson Bluff are prepped and plumbed with sprinklers. Firefighters are prepared to burnout from those sites should the fires start to threaten them. Crews have also prepped Herbert Village on the Porcupine River and are completing point protection for sites on the Little Black River.

Firefighters intend to conduct firing operations from the indirect lines south of Chalkyitsik that have been established and plumbed. That operation, may be conducted later today, and will be supported by the helicopter and drone equipped with the PSD. This burnout will remove thick areas of black spruce that could carry fire from the Bearnose Hill Fire into Chalkyitsik.

Columns of smoke rise Thursday evening, July 18, 2019, from where a helicopter has dropped plastic spheres that ignite to catch a broad area black spruce on fire. The tactical firing operation is removing the fuels ahead of the Frozen Calf Fire (#367) to the northeast of Chalkyitsik. Sam Harrel/Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team
Columns of smoke rise Thursday evening, July 18, 2019, from where a helicopter has dropped plastic spheres that ignite to catch a broad area black spruce on fire. The tactical firing operation is removing the fuels ahead of the Frozen Calf Fire (#367) to the northeast of Chalkyitsik. Sam Harrel/Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team

KZPA 900 AM radio in Fort Yukon is airing information updates about the Chalkyitsik Complex of fires daily at 12:50 pm.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in place over Chalkyitsik and some of the surrounding area to provide a safe operating environment for firefighting aircraft. Go to https://tfr.faa.gov for more information on the TFR.

 Mashii’ Choo


Hadweenzic River Fire (#337) – 49,636 acres, 94 personnel

Winds blew from the southwest yesterday, with gusts as high as 22 mph that increased fire behavior as anticipated. Fire grew to the west and east as the weather in the Upper Yukon zone continues to be very warm. Fuels remain quite dry, even burning in marshy areas that typically have stopped fire progression in the past. Fire has progressed to the east side of the Chandalar river. Burn operations around prioritized areas will be completed today if weather and fire conditions allow. The Hadweenzic River Fire is burning approximately 6 1/2 miles northeast of Nahshii Bible Camp, and approximately 19 miles west of Fort Yukon. Due to the distance from the Village of Beaver to the Chandalar river, the fire area has been divided into an East and West zone.

A Temporary Flight Restriction has been placed over the Hadweenzic and Tony Slough fires. Go to https://tfr.faa.gov for more information on the TFR. 

Map of fires burning in the Upper Yukon zone, July 17, 2019. For a pdf version of the map, click here.
Map of fires burning in the Upper Yukon zone, July 17, 2019. For a pdf version of the map, click here.


Tony Slough Fire (#493) – 1,526 acres, 57 personnel

Warm weather, winds gusting to 20 mph and very dry fuels resulted in significant fire activity yesterday in the Tony Slough fire, where flame lengths reached 100 feet. Wind today is at the 8-10 mph range with higher gusts. If conditions allow, firefighters will conduct burnout operations around Camp Nahshii. Providing protection to structures and individuals at Camp Nahshii and the village of Beaver remains the top priority. The Tony Slough Fire is now less than 2 miles from Camp Nahshii, and 8 miles northeast of the village of Beaver.

A Temporary Flight Restriction has been placed over the Hadweenzic and Tony Slough fires. Go to https://tfr.faa.gov for more information on the TFR.


Chandalar River Fire (#349) – 11,000 acres, 87 personnel

Fire moved into a previously unburned pocket of black spruce inside the fire perimeter yesterday. This sent up a large smoke column. The incident commander took a helicopter flight over the area and confirmed the smoke was being generated by burning in the interior of the fire. All protections are in place around the allotments north of the fire. Firefighters were able to begin a planned burnout operation, designed to protect the allotments, but had to stop due to a shift in wind direction and speed. The same southwest winds are predicted today. This would prevent the continuation of the planned burnout until wind and fuel conditions change. The fire is still about 1 mile southwest of Venetie, with the Chandalar River serving as a natural barrier between the fire and the village.

East Fork Chandalar Fire (#572) – 20 acres, 56 personnel

The fire is 60 percent contained. Hose lines are in place around the fire and firefighters are mopping up, looking for hotspots up to 30 feet inside the perimeter to put them out. Another 20-person crew arrived last night. Eight smokejumpers are coming off the fire today for reassignment. The fire is still 25 miles northwest of Venetie.

Crater Creek (#585)  – 4 acres, 8 personnel

The fire, 10 miles south of Venetie, saw no new growth yesterday. It continues to burn hot in “dead and down” fuels and heavy duff inside the fire perimeter. Mop up has been hindered by limited water supply. Eight smokejumpers continue to work with helicopter crews to target “deep burning” hotspots with bucket drops. The smokejumpers are also using water from large portable bladders, known as blivets, to put out hotspots from the ground.


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.

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