There was no drama on the Munson Creek Fire Saturday as slightly cooler temperatures and higher relatively humidity moderated fire behavior somewhat on the 11,200-acre fire burning near Chena Hot Springs about 50 miles east of Fairbanks.
The fire remained active but there was no ash falling at Chena Hot Springs Resort like the previous two days as southwest winds pushed smoke to the east and it was a clear, sunny day at Chena Hot Springs for the most part. The more than 100 firefighters working on the fire continued triaging cabins, homes and other structures along Chena Hot Springs Road by setting up pumps, hoses and sprinklers around structures to protect them in the event the fire threatens them.
The fire remains about 1 mile south of Chena Hot Springs and about 1 ¾ mile from Chena Hot Springs Road in the area of the Angel Rocks Trailhead around Mile 48. The road and hot springs remain open. A “Set” evacuation notice remains in effect for cabin and homeowners between Mile 45 and Chena Hot Springs at the end of the road at Mile 56.5. A “Set” evacuation notice means people should be prepared to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.
There was some good news to report, as fire managers confirmed that two aurora viewing yurts behind Chena Hot Springs, an Alaska State Parks shelter cabin on the Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail, a remote weather station and a Wi-fi repeater that had been threatened by the fire were all still standing.
Pushed by the south winds, fingers of fire continued backing down a hillside to a creek drainage behind the hot springs but not at an accelerated pace. Crews did work cutting a fire break from the hot springs along a trail that will seal off part of the resort and give firefighters an anchor point to work from should the fire reach that point. The other crews spent most of the day assessing structures along a 10-mile stretch of Chena Hot Springs Road from the hot springs west to Mile 45, as well as up the West and North forks of the Chena River, to determine how many structures need to be protected and what work would be involved in doing so.
A load of eight smokejumpers who were dropped along the Middle Fork Chena River on the south end of the fire identified three cabins and a mining claim that they began protection work on. Those structures could be impacted by the fire tonight or tomorrow. The smokejumpers are being ferried by airboat from structure to structure.
A public meeting was held at Chena Hot Springs Resort and a crowd of about 30 people gathered to get an update on the fire.
All Alaska State Parks facilities east of milepost 45 Chena Hot Springs Road remain closed for public safety, including the Angel Rocks Trail and trailhead and Chena Dome Trail and trailhead.