Munson Creek Fire comes to life with hotter, drier weather; Angel Rocks Trail closed

After four days of little to no growth on the Munson Creek Fire, the situation changed on Wednesday.

A predicted warming trend with lower relative humidity arrived and increased fire behavior and growth. The fire was estimated at 500 acres as of Wednesday night but is likely considerably larger. On Wednesday, the fire actively backed down a ridge on the west side, moving slightly to the north along the ridge. Wind pushed the south end of the fire across Munson Creek. Most of the fire’s growth was east of the creek where wind direction and slope aligned and allowed the fire to run straight uphill, driven by wind. Fire behavior included flames running and crowning in black spruce with short range spotting.

By Thursday morning, heavy smoke from the fire was blowing into Fairbanks and surrounding areas. The warming and drying trend is forecast to continue today and Friday, which will likely keep smoke in the Fairbanks area when winds align. A more accurate estimate of fire size will be documented when smoke and conditions allow.

A large column of smoke rising from a wildfire as seen from a ridgetop behind Chena Hot Springs.
The Munson Creek Fire as seen from a ridge behind Chena Hot Springs on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Matt Nunnelly/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry

Columns of smoke were visible Wednesday afternoon from both Chena Hot Springs and Fairbanks. Fire managers stressed that more smoke does not necessarily mean more immediate danger from the fire. Although the flames were more active, wind pushed the fire farther into the Limited Protection area north and east of Chena Hot Springs, where previous fire scars have reduced fuels.

Due to the increased fire activity, Alaska State Parks has closed the Angel Rocks Trail effective immediately. The Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail remains closed, also.

The Yukon Crew continued monitoring the fire from a shelter cabin on the Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail and from cabins above Chena Hot Springs. The crew continued pre-staging firefighters and equipment around cabins and structures in case point protection is needed. Additional threats are minimal at this time.

The Munson Creek fire was ignited by lightning on June 18. The fire had been laying low during recent cool, humid weather. Because no homes, cabins or other structures lay in its direct path, the Munson Creek fire is being allowed to burn in order to reduce fuels, create a mosaic of different habitat types and reduce future fire danger, similar to a natural fire regime. Fire is an essential ecological process in the Boreal Forest ecosystem in Alaska.

Early Wednesday morning the Yukon Crew was alerted to a visiting black bear in camp. “Apparently the bear wanted to join the crew for breakfast,” said Chena River State Recreation Area Chief Park Ranger Samuel Braband. The bear tried to get food but no injuries nor damage to equipment were reported. The bear ran off when challenged and had not returned by evening.

Categories: Active Wildland Fire, AK Fire Info

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