The Salcha River Fire (#169) remains at an estimated 7 acres and more than 50 firefighters are working to secure containment lines around the fire to ensure it doesn’t spread toward multiple cabins along the river a short distance away.
The fire is approximately 25 air miles up the Salcha River from the Richardson Highway and is located about a quarter mile south of the river. The fire was originally reported to be about 1 mile north of the river but the location was changed due to more accurate mapping coordinates. The fire is about 1 ½ air miles northeast of the point where Flat Creek flows into the Salcha River.
There are multiple cabins on both the south and north sides of the river in that area but they are not considered threatened at this point.
Two Type 2 initial attack crews – White Mountain and Tanana Chiefs – were both flown into the fire by helicopter last evening to join eight smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service and four Helitack firefighters from Fairbanks Area forestry that were initially deployed on the fire.
The fire is believed to be a lightning-caused holdover from lightning in the area in previous days. It was reported just before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday by military range control personnel who could see smoke in the area. The initial report sized it up as 3 acres burning in black spruce and mixed hardwoods.
The Division of Forestry launched an aggressive aerial assault on the fire that included water drops from two water-scooping aircraft and a helicopter, as well as two retardant drops from an air tanker. Retardant was dropped between the cabins on the south side of the river and the fire to slow any spread toward the cabins and on the south flank of the fire to slow its spread in that direction. Fire managers reported “minimal spread” once aircraft began dropping water and retardant on and around the fire.
Fire managers expect it will take crews about four days to fully contain the fire. Supplies are being shuttled into crews by helicopter from a staging area set up in Salcha.