Firefighters worked late into the night Sunday to suppress a wildfire off Brock Road about 8 ½ miles southeast of Fairbanks and had the fire 95 percent contained as of 1 a.m. Monday.
The Brock Road Fire, initially estimated at 50 acres during the initial attack, was downsized to 21 acres due to better mapping. Firefighters had a dozer line around 80 percent of the fire. The dozer line was connected to a saw line that firefighters are cutting around the fire to serve as a fuel break and reduce chances of the smoldering fire escaping into unburned fuels.
Two crews – the White Mountain and UAF Nanooks – remained at the fire overnight and re-engaged early this morning to continue cutting saw line to secure the perimeter of the fire. Crews on Sunday night searched the unburned green area around the fire for any hot spots outside the fire perimeter. Crews worked 200 feet out from the burn perimeter and found one hot spot that had previously been identified. The hot spot was promptly extinguished.
As of Monday morning, there were 39 personnel working to secure the perimeter and ensure a flare up does not breach the control line.
The Brock Road Fire was reported in the area of Brock and Repp roads just before 2:30 p.m. Sunday by a private drone operator flying a drone in the area. The drone pilot then grounded his drone after reporting the fire to allow aircraft to work safely over the fire.
Air attack personnel estimated the fire at one-half acre at 3:30 p.m. Burning iprimarily in black spruce, the fire grew rapidly to an estimated 50 acres by 5:30 p.m. The closest were reportedly one-quarter mile to the south and west but the fire moved away, not toward, the residences.
The fire produced a large smoke column visible from Fairbanks and North Pole. Fairbanks Area Forestry responded with an aggressive aerial attack that featured two air retardant tankers, four water-scooping aircraft and two helicopters to slow its forward progress. The aircraft dropped retardant and water on and around the fire to knock down the flames and keep it from further spreading.
More than 70 firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry, BLM Alaska Fire Service and North Star Volunteer Fire Department were quickly mobilized to the fire as aircraft worked to confine it. Eight smokejumpers from nearby Fort Wainwright were transported to the fire by van and three crews, including one that was pulled off the Haystack Fire north of Fairbanks, were on the ground by 5:30 p.m. to reinforce the work accomplished by aircraft. By 7 p.m., the fire was putting up minimal amounts of smoke and no flames were visible.
Given its location near residences and the fact no lightning was observed in the area recently, the fire is believed to be human caused and is under investigation.
The Alaska Division of Forestry applauds the drone operator who reported the fire for doing the right thing and grounding his/her drone after reporting the fire to allow aircraft to work safely over the fire. It is illegal to fly an unauthorized drone over a wildfire and all firefighting aircraft must be grounded if a drone is spotted in the area, potentially resulting in a bigger, more destructive fire.