Extreme weather conditions expected to spark new fires in Northern Interior Alaska

Lightning sparked new fires in the Northern Interior Alaska with more expected in the upcoming days due to an abundance of dry and warm weather. The U.S. National Weather Service Fairbanks Alaska has issued a Red Flag Warning for most of the Upper Yukon Zone from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday for abundant lightning in dry vegetation. A Red Flag Warning means that conditions are occurring or will occur which could lead to the development of large and dangerous fires.

Map showing Red Flag warning in Interior Alaska
A Red Flag Warning issued in Alaska June 14, 2020 call for thunderstorms, gusty winds, and extensive lightning strikes in areas of very dry fuels. For more information click here.

A very active day is expected as a thermal trough moves north while an easterly disturbance passes over the Central and Northern Interior. This will spark off clusters of strong thunderstorms. Any storm will be capable of producing lightning, small hail, strong and erratic winds, and heavy rainfall. The bullseye for activity today will be along the high terrain of the Fortymile Uplands north to the White Mountains, Ray Mountains, Upper Koyukuk Valley, and Yukon Flats. This will likely induce multiple fire starts given the status the abundance of dry vegetation in the Yukon Flats. People traveling in the outdoors should be alert for new fires and for lightning.

The Porcupine Fire (249) is burning approximately 17 miles northeast of Fort Yukon in a full protection zone in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The fire is burning in tundra and black spruce. Twelve smoke jumpers were deployed Saturday night. The Rogue River Hotshots from Oregon are being assigned to fight the fire, which is estimated at 30 acres.

Coleen Fire (#235) was reported Saturday and is estimated at 500 acres. The fire burning in black spruce and tundra approximately 73 miles northeast of Chalkyitsik. It is not threatening any villages or private property and this time and will be monitored.

Map of Albert Creek and Old Lost Fires in Alaska 6-14-2020
Map of Albert Creek Fire (#215) and Old Lost Fire (#234) June 14, 2020 burning east of Stevens Village, Alaska

Alfred Creek Fire (#215) is being demobilized today because fire managers expect it to be overtaken by the Old Lost Fire (#234), currently burning about 9 miles northeast. The Old Lost Fire has exhibited very active fire behavior. Northeast winds are driving it through continuous vegetation to the southwest. The Chena Hotshots were tasked with assessing and mapping cabins and allotments on the south side of the Yukon River near Stevens Village and the Alfred Creek Fire to enable crews to more effectively provide protection if the need arises.

There are 11 active fires burning in the BLM AFS Upper Yukon Zone that covers the northeastern part of Alaska. After today, the Porcupine Fire and the 12,024-acre Isom Creek Fire near the Dalton Highway Yukon River Crossing are the only fires in the Upper Yukon Zone being actively staffed at this time.

For more information, contact the Alaska Interagency Fire Information Office at (907)356-5511. For a pdf of this article, click here.

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