With assistance from Mother Nature and a lot of hard work by firefighters, containment on the Any Creek Fire (#236) was bumped up to 35% as of Friday morning and that number should continue to climb in the next few days.
The fire area about 10 miles north of Fairbanks and 7 miles west of the Elliott Highway near Old Murphy Dome Road had received one-tenth of an inch of rain as of Friday morning and the forecast called for more rain throughout the day and on Saturday, along with cooler, cloudier conditions.
The 140 firefighters working to suppress the fire plan to take advantage of the favorable weather conditions to increase containment today and through the weekend to ensure the fire remains in its current footprint.
“In Alaska, this type of weather is when we get our heavy ground work done,” Incident Commander Thomas Krock with the Alaska Division of Forestry told firefighters in Friday morning’s briefing. “It’s time to really hammer this fire.”
Plans for today include doing chainsaw work to further secure the edge of the fire and to open up the canopy around the perimeter of the fire so rain can better penetrate the soil and saturate ground fuels.
Fire behavior on Thursday consisted mainly of creeping and smoldering with occasional tree torching in unburned pockets of fuel in the interior of the fire. Firefighters on Thursday did saw work on some of those unburned pockets of fuel to reduce the chances tree torching, which can create airborne embers that have the potential to start spot fires if they are carried beyond containment lines.
On Thursday afternoon, a helicopter made a reconnaissance flight of the fire and Operations personnel reported that the fire “looked good” and that the efforts of the crews are paying big dividends in terms of halting further spread.
While the cool, wet weather clearly puts a damper on fire behavior, it makes for tougher working conditions for firefighters. The ground becomes slipperier and footing on steep slopes becomes problematic, as does the backbreaking work in rain. Hypothermia with the cooler, wet conditions also becomes a concern, along with an increase in mosquitoes, which have already been a nuisance. Firefighters were encouraged to seek cover under tarps that were provided if the rain becomes too heavy. Once clothing and gear gets wet, drying it out becomes a problem. From a tactics standpoint, it also becomes impossible to conduct any burnout operations to strengthen or widen control lines in wet weather.