Crews, smokejumpers mobilize for two fires burning near Yukon River crossing

8 p.m., June 6 update

The fire has impact and crossed the Dalton Highway between milepost 47-52 just south of the Yukon River crossing. The highway is open at this time. Use extreme caution when driving through this area due to firefighting resources in the area.

4 p.m. June 6 update
The fire is moving closer to the Dalton Highway and may reach the road somewhere between milepost 47-52 later today. An aggressive air and ground attack is underway with helicopters, large and small water scoopers and an Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) air retardant tanker each trying to suppress the fire and keep it from the road. More firefighters are en route to join the suppression efforts. The fire is an estimated 200 acres and is very visible from the road. Please use caution when in the area just south of the Yukon River crossing.

Map of Isom Creek Fire and Daltong Highway.
This map of the Isom Creek Fire (#187) shows satellite heat signatures from this lightning-caused fire as it burns southwest toward the Dalton Highway.

Original information:

Three crews, including a Type 2 contract crew from the Yukon Flats area, will join the effort on the Isom Creek Fire (#187) burning southeast of the Dalton Highway Yukon River crossing. Meanwhile, eight BLM smokejumpers are responding to another fire burning about 20 miles north of this fire. The Dall River Fire (#193) was spotted Friday evening by firefighter personnel aboard a plane in support of the Isom Creek Fire. It was reported at about eight acres and was smoldering in black spruce in the Yukon Flats Wildlife Refuge. It is within two miles of Native allotments and about 10 miles northwest of Stevens Village.

Map of Isom Creek and Dall River fires.
The Isom Creek Fire (187) is burning south of the Yukon River. The Dall River (#192) is burning about 20 miles north. The pink squares are known Native allotments in the area. Click on link for interactive map of Alaska fires.

The Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments, or CATG Crew, the BLM Alaska Fire Service Midnight Sun Hotshots and the Alaska Division of Forestry Type 2 Initial Attack White Mountain Crew out of Fairbanks, will mobilize Saturday to replace half of the smokejumpers working on the fire.

With the help of an aggressive attack from the air and a little bit of rain, the 16 smokejumpers assigned to the roughly 80-acre fire after it started Friday were able to cut a saw line around two-thirds of the fire with the hope to finish it today. Despite being close to the Yukon River, finding a usable water source has been challenging due to the difficult terrain. Instead, they’ve relied on aerial delivery in helicopter buckets and by water-scooper airplanes.

The smokejumpers and multiple aircraft including two large and small water-scoopers and a DOF air retardant tanker were busy Friday trying to keep the fire from Native allotments and structures along the Yukon River to the northwest and northeast of the fire. The goal is to hit the lightning-caused fire hard with a combination of ground and air resources to put the fire out.

It is burning through predominantly black spruce with a mixture of hardwoods and sent up a plume of smoke that was visible 30 miles away.

Crews will mobilize today with the CATG crew flying by airplane to Stevens Village upriver from the fire, then shuttling out to the fire via helicopter.

Hard hat from the Type 2 CATG contract crew with firefighters from the Fort Yukon region.

The CATG Crew is one of two contract crews that were made available for fire response Thursday. The CATG Crew is based in Fort Yukon, but also has assembly points in Venetie and Arctic Village. The BLM AFS recently awarded three contracts for Type 2 crews based in rural Alaska communities for quick response to fires within BLM AFS protection areas and to meet the needs of Type 2 wildland firefighting crews in Alaska and the Lower 48. The Capstone Crew, with assembly points in Minto and Tanana, was inspected and made available on Thursday as well. The third, the SES Fire Crew with assembly points in Huslia, Hughes and Allakaket, is awaiting final inspection before being deemed ready to respond. These crews are the first of its kind nationwide for BLM with today’s mobilization the first for the contracted crews. They are mostly made up of firefighters from the Type 2 emergency firefighter crews in these regions. However, unlike Type 2 EFF crews that are hired on an as-needed basis, contracted crews allow for work outside of fire suppression, such as fuels mitigation and other funded projects.

The Isom Creek Fire was one of nine new fires Friday. With the exception of a fire burning in a stump on the Kenai Peninsula, the new fires are located in BLM AFS Protection Area that covers the northern half of Alaska. While the fire in the Kenai Peninsula was considered undetermined, the fires in BLM AFS protection area were suspected of being lightning caused. The Kenai and the Isom Creek Fire were the only two that generated a response from firefighters Friday while the others are burning in remote parts of Alaska and so far, have not threatened any identified sites of value.

Map of fires in Alaska.
There are 81 active fires (in red) in Alaska as of June 5, 2020. The blue dots are fires that are considered out.

The number of lightning-caused fires grew by 70 in the past week. Of the 174 fires across Alaska, 92 were considered human-caused, 71 are lightning caused, 10 are undetermined and one is unknown. As of Friday night, fires in Alaska have burned an estimated approximately 20,000 acres. Only a handful have assigned firefighters.

Map of lightning caused fires in Alaska on June 5, 2020.
There were 3,224 recorded lightning strikes in Alaska on Friday, June 5, 2020.

Those numbers could increase today as the lightning trend continues. There were 3,224 recorded strikes Friday.

Contact Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)388-2159 or eipsen@blm.gov for more information.

About BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (AFS) located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, provides wildland fire suppression services for over 244 million acres of Department of the Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska. In addition, AFS has other statewide responsibilities that include: interpretation of fire management policy; oversight of the BLM Alaska Aviation program; fuels management projects; and operating and maintaining advanced communication and computer systems such as the Alaska Lightning Detection System. AFS also maintains a National Incident Support Cache with a $10 million inventory. The Alaska Fire Service provides wildland fire suppression services for America’s “Last Frontier” on an interagency basis with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Military in Alaska.

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