Firefighters from the Fairbanks Area Forestry station have been helicoptered in to clear trees around a shelter cabin on the Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail in the Chena River State Recreation area to protect it from an 80-acre wildfire burning 5 miles south of Chena Hot Springs Resort.
State forestry had been monitoring the lightning-caused Munson Creek Fire (#235) for the past five days before it blew up Wednesday and put up a large smoke column visible from Chena Hot Springs and Chena Hot Springs Road. The Northern Forestry Dispatch Center in Fairbanks has received multiple calls from people reporting the smoke column.
The fire was initially reported on June 18 as a 2-acre fire approximately 50 miles northeast of Fairbanks and 5 miles south of the hot springs. The fire was reported to be “smoldering and skunking around in the tundra.” Because the fire was mapped in a Limited protection area with no immediate values at risk, no suppression action was taken and state forestry has been monitoring the fire from the air.
The fire became much more active this afternoon and Fairbanks Area Forestry sent a helicopter to get a size up of the fire at 5:30 p.m. The fire has grown to an estimated 80 acres and was actively burning in a sea of black spruce with 5- to 10-foot flame lengths and multiple trees torching. The fire is about 2 miles south of the trail shelter on the Angel Rocks-Chena Hot Springs Trail. and moving in that direction.
The helicopter was going to drop water on the fire to slow its spread and four Helitack firefighters were preparing to clear trees around the trail shelter to create defensible space. The helicopter was also going to drop water around the cabin to wet down the area around the cabin when the firefighters completed saw work.
State forestry has an engine assessing structures and contacting homeowners at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road to develop a structure protection plan in the event the fire becomes a threat. However, the fire would have to cross some adverse terrain to pose a threat.