Isom Creek Fire grows significantly, crosses Dalton Highway

June 7, 2020 – The Isom Creek Fire (#187) grew exponentially Saturday evening and crossed the Dalton Highway south of the Yukon River crossing. Despite two days of an aggressive air attack on the fire in the form of water-scoopers, air retardant tankers and helicopters with water buckets, the fire became very active in the afternoon. The fire grew from an estimated 80 to 1,000 acres Saturday and is expected to be very active again starting this afternoon. The fire crossed the road between mile 47-52 and did reach the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. However, the pipeline remained unscathed by fire as it has done many times in past years.

The road is still open, but there will likely be smoke in the area of milepost 47-52. Please use extreme caution when traveling this stretch of road due to the low visibility and the amount of firefighting personnel and equipment in the area.

Photo of Isom Creek Fire
The Isom Creek Fire (#187) burning southeast of the Dalton Highway Yukon River Crossing picked up activity Saturday night. This photo was taken from a helicopter at 11 p.m. Photo by Cammy Roy, BLM AFS

There were as many as 15 aircraft operating in the air space over the fire Saturday. There is a FAA Temporary Flight Restriction in place to provide a safe environment for firefighting aircraft operating in the fire area.

A Type 3 incident management organization will be put in place tomorrow with many more firefighting personnel and apparatus mobilizing to the area today. There were 44 people assigned to the fire Saturday including 24 BLM smokejumpers.

Two crews, the Type 2 Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments contract crew, or CATG Crew, and the Alaska Division of Forestry (DOF) Type 2 Initial Attack (T2IA) White Mountain Crew out of Fairbanks, arrived at the fire Saturday to help smokejumpers already in place. More crews are en route, including another Type 2 Capstone contract crew with firefighters from the Minto and Tanana area; the BLM Alaska Fire Service Midnight Sun Hotshots; the (DOF) Pioneer Peak Hotshots; and DOF T2IA Gannett Glacier and T2IA Tanana Chiefs Crew.

Because the fire is burning in a road-accessible area, which is rare for fires in BLM AFS protection area that covers the vast northern half of the state, engines from DOF and local volunteer fire departments will also head north to help.

Map of Isom Creek Fire from 1:14 p.m. on June 7, 2020.
Map of Isom Creek Fire (#187) from 1:14 p.m. on June 7, 2020. Click on this link for PDF version of map.

The fire is burning through black spruce with a mixture of hardwoods. Despite being just south of the Yukon River, finding a usable water source has been challenging due to the difficult terrain. Instead, the suppression efforts are relying on aerial delivery in helicopter buckets and by water-scooper airplanes.

Firefighters will concentrate on protecting Native allotments and structures along the Yukon River to the north and preventing any more impacts the highway and pipeline to the west. The goal is to contain the fire.

Photo of smoke from the Isom Creek Fire.
The Isom Creek Fire (#187) burning southeast of the Dalton Highway Yukon River Crossing picked up activity Saturday night and created this plume. This photo was taken at 10 p.m. from the 5 Mile airstrip located five miles north of the river crossing, which is at milepost 55 of Dalton Highway. Photo by Cammy Roy, BLM AFS

Meanwhile, eight smokejumpers expect to have a fire burning 20 miles to the north contained later today. The Dall River Fire (#193) 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. This fire was spotted Friday evening by firefighter personnel aboard a plane in support of the Isom Creek Fire. The fire was estimated at 22 acres Saturday.

Both fires were caused by lightning Friday.

There were five new fires on Saturday. Of those, only one, the Gold Bar Fire (#197) in the Mat-Su Valley, were considered human caused.

There are only three staffed fires in Alaska with 74 others in monitor status. The BLM AFS Chena Hotshots should wrap up work and demobilize tomorrow from the 1,704-acre Engineer Lake 2 Fire (#142) burning near Russian Mission.

For more information, contact Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen (907)388-2159 or eipsen@blm.gov.

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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