Continued cool, wet weather has allowed firefighters to fully contain the 44-acre Any Creek Fire (#236) located about 10 miles north of Fairbanks near Old Murphy Dome Road.
After a third straight day of rain and cool temperatures, fire managers with the Alaska Division of Forestry declared the fire 100% contained as of Sunday night, allowing residents in the O’Connor Creek Subdivision less than a mile from the edge of the fire to breath a sigh of relief. The fire, located about 7 miles west of the Elliott Highway, started on June 13 and drew an aggressive aerial assault that included multiple air tankers, water bombers helicopters and ground forces due to its proximity to the subdivision. A “Level 2: Set” evacuation notice was initially issued for the subdivision but that was reduced to a “Level 1: Ready” notice at the end of the first day when initial attack was successful in halting the spread of the fire.
The fire area received an estimated one-half inch of rain on Sunday, not as much as the record 1.13 inches that was recorded at the Fairbanks International Airport but enough to tamp down any kind of fire behavior. In the past three days, just over 2 inches of rain has been recorded at the airport and the fire has received rain each of the past three days.
Even though the fire has been declared 100% contained, there is still considerable work to do before the fire is officially declared controlled. Containment means a line is constructed, mop up is ongoing and the spread of the fire is stopped. Control means mop up near the containment lines is complete and the line is expected to hold. This means that every square foot of the fire area will be searched for residual pockets of heat or fire, commonly called hot spots.
As of Monday morning, there were still 99 firefighters assigned to the fire but that number is expected to decrease in the next few days as resources time out or are demobilized.
Firefighters note that there are significant fuel-related obstacles to doing the required examination of the fire area. Despite the rain, there are pockets of dry moss and brush, particularly under closed-canopy white spruce stands. Wind-toppled and “jackstrawed” groups of trees hinder movement of firefighters and affect their ability to locate hot spots.
The wet weather also makes for tougher working conditions, both in terms of comfort and mobility. The poor weather has limited the use of aircraft and firefighters have had to hike to their work areas rather than be shuttled by helicopter. The fire is located on a steep slope and the wet, muddy conditions make walking a challenge, especially when carrying chainsaws and other gear. The slippery conditions are a hazard firefighters must be weary of as a fall could result in injury. The cool, wet conditions also increase the chances of hypothermia or sickness.
To facilitate the gridding work, crews are cutting, gathering and stacking smaller logs and brush, a process called bone piling. Those piles will be burned to help widen and strengthen control lines. This allows ground forces to more thoroughly grid the area for hot spots.
More wet weather is expected over the next few days which should help with mop-up efforts.
Categories: Active Wildland Fire