It’s a sure sign of wildfire season in Interior Alaska – the first coal seam fire of the year near Healy.
The Fairbanks Area Forestry station responded to the report of a wildfire off Healy Creek Spur Road near the community of Healy on Thursday night that appears to be a coal seam fire. The 4-acre fire, named the French Gulch Coal Seam Fire 2021, did not pose a threat and is in the same area where numerous coal seam fires have sprung up in past years.
The fire was reported by a local resident at around 8 p.m. It was located approximately 8 miles east of the Parks Highway and about one-quarter mile south of Healy Spur Road.
The Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department responded but did not take action when it was determined it was likely a coal seam fire. Coal seam fires, which can smolder underground for years before coming to the surface, pose a threat to firefighters due to the noxious gases they emit and the potential for burned ground below them to collapse.
A helicopter from Fairbanks Forestry confirmed that it appeared to be a coal seam fire and two forestry engines enroute to the fire were canceled and returned to Fairbanks.
The fire was burning primarily in tundra grass with patches of snow spread throughout the area. The helicopter made several water bucket drops to knock down and extinguish the flames. The helicopter returned on Friday afternoon to do a reconnaissance flight and fire personnel on board reported seeing no smoke in the area.
The fire will continue to be monitored.