Three firefighters finished a five-day Dalton Highway patrol Thursday to keep tabs on a couple of fires burning near the Arctic Circle about 190 miles north of Fairbanks.
The Dalton Highway gang of BLM Alaska Fire Service Fire Specialist Jacob Miller, and National Park Service firefighters Victoria Belser and William Gautsch monitored the Olsons Lake Fire (#188) burning east of the highway near milepost 107 and the Arctic Circle Fire (#187) about three miles north.
They also assessed private property with buildings between milepost 102-103 and came up with a structure protection plan in case it needed defending from the very slowly moving Olsons Lake Fire about two miles away.
Along the way they talked to local residents, tourists from in state and out of state, tour bus drivers, and workers at the commercial camps and Arctic Interagency Visitor Center in Coldfoot providing information about these fires and Alaska wildland fires in general.
Miller said only about 10% of the Olsons Lake Fire’s perimeter showed activity. The southwestern edge was moving at a very slow rate of spread – burning in a mixture of spruce, hardwood, brush and on the tops of tussocks grass clumps. The fire was not burning in the lowlands or at the base of the tussocks where it was still wet. It was estimated at about 4,500 acres in size based on satellite imagery.
“It’s creeping and smoldering with single-tree torching, backing, and doing ecological good,” Miller said.
“Doing what nature set it to do,” added Gautsch.
The trio said the Arctic Circle Fire appeared as a perfectly round dormant black spot.
Originally, the Olsons Lake Fire was two fires that merged. All three lightning-caused fires started on June 13. The Olsons Lake Fire originated on a hillside and burned down slope. All the fires are very visible from the road because they’re located on hills.
The fire received rain for the first few days of their patrol and showed little activity, but started putting up smoke yesterday. If the area doesn’t receive substantial rain, it is likely the Olsons Lake Fire could burn most of the summer and remain very visible to Dalton Highway motorists.
BLM AFS personnel will continue to monitor its progress.