COPPER CENTER, AK – The monitored fires in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve continue to burn in the duff soil layer of the forest floor. Duff is a soil type made of dead plant material including conifer needles, moss, leaves, bark, twigs and tree litter. The Chetaslina Fire (#606) and Long Fire (#484) are burning two to three feet within the duff.
According to the National Weather Service, cloudy, cool and wet conditions may persist through the weekend. The weather prompted a reduction from Alaska Preparedness Level 5 to Level 4 earlier in the week. While the weekend forecast may continue to limit fire activity, warm and dry weather could revive the lightning-caused fires.
Monitored, natural fires like the Chetaslina and Long fires act like a cleaning crew for the forest floor; removing less-desirable duff and allowing for new growth of edible plant material and habitat for moose, bison, caribou and many other animals species that call this area home.
The smallest animals that benefit from plant regeneration also help repopulate plant and animal species. Voles, often weighing less than four ounces, are some of the first to return to a burned area. These small mammals attract bigger mammals, such as martin and lynx. Voles also play a critical role in dispersing seeds throughout the burned area assisting with regeneration, providing a food source for birds and other animals.
Managing natural fires also reduces the risk and intensity of future wildfires by reducing fuel loads.
The fire managers from the Valdez-Copper River Area Division of Forestry and the National Park Service will continue to balance the risk and benefits of the fires burning within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve while keeping firefighter and the public’s safety as the number one priority.
Below is an update for the two fires actively burning in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve:
Chetaslina Fire (#606) – This fire is now estimated at 2,129.5 acres, experiencing minimal growth after several days with no change in fire behavior or perimeter. The Remote Area Weather Station (RAWS) showed precipitation in the area ranging from .5 to 1 inch in the last 24 hours and 2.5 inches of rain on Thursday. More rain is expected in the area Saturday.
Long Fire (#484) – This 150-acre fire experienced no growth. The Remote Area Weather Station (RAWS) showed precipitation in the area ranging from .5 to 1 inch in the last 24 hours and 2.5 inches of rain on Thursday. More rain is expected in the area Saturday.
For statewide wildfire information, visit: https://akfireinfo.com/.
For additional information, please contact the Fire Information Center at (208) 274-3316 or visit http://www.nps.gov/wrst/index.htm.