Haystack Fire grows to estimated 800 acres but containment reported at 40% as Alaska IMT prepares to take command

Hard work by firefighters and a small army of bulldozer operators has helped bring the Haystack Fire to 40% containment, and that was before the fire received rain on Thursday morning.   

Fire managers report the fire burning about 20 miles north of Fairbanks is now estimated at 800 acres, an increase of 300 acres due to increased fire activity and better mapping on Wednesday, but firefighters are getting a good handle on the fire. A fleet of bulldozers is scraping a containment line around the fire and that line should be completed today. Once that line is complete, the perimeter of the fire will be plumbed with hose and pumps to give firefighters a water source to begin mopping up the blaze that was started by lightning on Monday.

An aerial photo of the Haystack Fire showing a large column of smoke and flames, as well as a fire break cut across the top of the hillside the fire is burning on
The Haystack Fire north of Fairbanks burns near a fire break on a hillside Wednesday afternoon, June 16, 2021. The fire, estimated at 800 acres, has burned across the fire line in one spot and firefighters will be working to secure a line around that spot fire today. Ryan McPherson/BLM Alaska Fire Service.

Rain was falling on the fire Thursday morning helping to moderate fire activity but it’s not expected to be heavy enough to put the fire out. Warmer, drier temperatures will return starting Friday.

The Alaska Type 2 Black Incident Management Team commanded by Ed Sanford will take over management of the fire on Friday morning. The team will be inbriefed this afternoon and an incident command post will be set up at Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks.

There was brief suspense Wednesday afternoon when a 1-acre spot fire ignited across Caribou Creek on the southern edge of the fire only about 1 mile from the Haystack Subdivision. Fire managers were using Caribou Creek as a control line and the fire had been hung up north of the creek before it jumped the line Wednesday. A hand crew and heavy equipment working nearby were able to get a containment line around the spot fire before it grew any bigger.

“We pounced on it and caught it,” Incident Commander Zane Brown with the Alaska Division of Forestry said.

Securing the southern perimeter closest to the subdivision is the primary focus for crews. There are 22 structures within 1 mile of the southern perimeter of the fire and more than 70 structures within 2 miles of the fire. A structure protection group is assessing work that needs to be done to protect homes closest to the fire but there are not any immediate threats to any homes.

“The only part of the fire we’re having a problem with is the heel,” Brown said. “We’ve been able to hold flanks with aircraft and crews.”

The Midnight Sun Hotshot Crew from the BLM Alaska Fire Service Midnight arrived at the fire on Wednesday to bolster ground forces and the fire is expected at least one or two other crews to arrive today from the Lower 48 to reinforce suppression efforts.

After a reconnaissance flight over the fire late Wednesday night, Brown said that fire behavior was primarily smoldering with some single-tree torching. The fire has spotted across a fuel break that was cut near the top of a ridge north of the fire several years ago but Brown said two dozers will be used today to construct a control line around that spot fire and the fire break.

“We caught the spot (fire) with retardant and pinned it down,” Brown said. “Today we’ll have dozers get around it and get it secured.

Dozers will also be clearing a control line on the east flank of the fire today to connect it with the fire break.

“We’ve got two (dozer) blade lengths down the left flank and we’ll be starting up the right flank (Thursday),” Brown said.

Resources assigned to Type 3 Incident Management Team lead by Incident Commander Zane Brown today include:

  • 3 Hand Crews (57 persons) – White Mountain Type 2 IA, Tanana Chiefs T2 IA, Midnight Sun Hotshots.
  • Type 2 medium helicopter
  • Type 3 light helicopter
  • Operations overhead/support (21)

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) remains in place over the fire to ensure a safe working environment for firefighting aircraft. For information about the TFR, go to https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_1_3841.html.

Categories: Active Wildland Fire, AK Fire Info

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