Midnight Sun Hotshots mobilizing for fire north of Fort Yukon

The BLM Alaska Fire Service Midnight Sun Hotshots are mobilizing to protect a Native allotment from the Sheenjek River Fire (#296) burning about 46 miles north of Fort Yukon. While other fires throughout Alaska remain dormant, the Sheenjek River Fire recently came to life and grew substantially over the past few days, causing smoke to drift into Venetie about 37 miles to the west. When BLM AFS personnel checked on the fire July 4, it was reported at 214 acres and was smoldering and creeping. That changed over the weekend when the fire took off and has since grown to an estimated 2,549 acres. The lightning-caused fire is burning in black spruce, brush and tundra within the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge since it was discovered on June 23. Because it is burning in a limited management option area and was not immediately threatening any known structures or allotments, it was placed in monitor status and allowed to function in its normal ecological role. That recently changed now that it is within about 8 miles of a Native allotment. The crew will mobilize through Fort Yukon on its way to the fire and will set up protective measures – such as creating fuel breaks and a hose and sprinkler system from a nearby lake –  for the large allotment to the west of the fire.

Another flight conducted on Monday reported the fire was active on 50% of its perimeter and was backing, flanking with isolating torching and spotting 150 feet. Firefighting personnel aboard the flight reported the fire was exhibiting low to moderate rates of spread to the south and east. The northern flank of the fire to the west was reportedly burning into a marshy area, which slowed but did not stop the fire. In between the marshy area and the allotment is mostly black spruce trees that are very receptive to burning.

  • Photo of Sheenjek Fire burning north of Fort Yukon on July 7, 2020. Photo by Chris Demers, BLM AFS.
  • Photo of Sheenjek Fire burning north of Fort Yukon on July 7, 2020. Photo by Chris Demers, BLM AFS.
  • Photo of Sheenjek Fire burning north of Fort Yukon on July 7, 2020.

The Sheenjek River Fire is one of two staffed fires in Alaska. The other, the Isom Creek Fire (#187) burning southeast of the Dalton Highway Yukon River Crossing, has 25 firefighters including the BLM AFS North Star Crew checking for hotspots along the eastern perimeter of the 12,139-acre fire. This fire remains contained along the highway to the west, the Yukon River to the north and the southern edge. 

As of today, an estimated 173,685 acres have burned in 296 reported fires across Alaska. The Yukon Flats remains the hottest and driest area of the state and has the most potential for continued fire activity.

Contact Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS public affairs specialist, at (907)356-5510 or eipsen@blm.gov for more information.

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Map of Sheenjek River Fire on July 8, 2020.
Map of Sheenjek River Fire on July 8, 2020 in relation to a Native allotment to the west of the fire. Click on link for PDF version of map.

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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