After a day of soaking rain and gritty work by firefighters, the 44-acre Any Creek Fire (#236) north of Fairbanks near Old Murphy Dome Road is now 70% contained.
With more wet weather in the forecast, fire managers with the Alaska Division of Forestry are confident the fire located about 7 miles west of the Elliott Highway and less than a mile from a subdivision on Old Murphy Dome Road will continue to behave and give the 120 firefighters working on the fire the opportunity to put it to bed.
At Saturday’s morning briefing, Incident Commander Thomas Krock praised firefighters for their hard work in trying conditions.
“Conditions are difficult, but morale is high,” Krock told a gaggle of firefighters assembled for the daily briefing.
He noted that without their hard work and the favorable weather, the fire could have easily become “another Shovel Creek,” in reference to the 2019 Shovel Creek fire, another lightning-caused fire in the Chatanka River drainage that started June 21 near Murphy Dome, just about 7 miles to the east of the Any Creek Fire.
The Shovel Creek Fire escaped initial attack and eventually became a Type 1 (extremely complex) incident that burned over 20,000 acres over the course of six weeks and resulted in multiple evacuations. The Any Creek Fire started a week ago, on June 13, but with a massive aerial assault that included two air retardant tankers, six water bombers and two helicopters dropping retardant and water around and on the fire, firefighters were able to corral the fire and keep it in its current footprint.
After a day of significant rainfall, the fire itself was very quiet Saturday morning. Scattered wispy clouds obscured the Chatanika River to the north. There was no smoke in evidence. After Friday’s rain, it would take at least a couple of days of warm, dry weather for smoldering hot spots to reappear. That occurrence does not appear likely in the near future.
Today, crews will continue to patrol and contain the fire’s edge, digging up any hot spots found and extinguishing them with water from a hose lay around the fire. They will also use chainsaws to remove trees and open up the canopy on the fire perimeter to allow for deeper penetration of rain to ground and surface fuels.
Crews are concentrating on “bone-piling” and shoring up existing suppression lines. Bone-piling entails gathering up unburned fuels (small logs, sticks, brush) from around the fire’s perimeter and piling them “in the black” (burned) area. Many of these piles will ultimately be ignited and burned. This helps widens and strengthens control lines. That allows ground forces to more thoroughly grid the area for hot spots.
Suppression objectives remain the same, with the ultimate goal of 100% mop up.