Start Date: 06/18/2021 Location: 52 miles E of Fairbanks, AK
Cause: Lightning Fire Size: 36,609 acres
Containment: 0% Total Personnel: 198
Warmer temperatures and bright sunshine caused the Munson Creek Fire to awaken on Saturday from a four-day slumber caused by cooler, cloudier, wetter conditions.
Fire managers had anticipated the 36,609-acre fire burning directly behind Chena Hot Springs Resort would act up with a return to warmer, drier weather and that happened Saturday, as puffs of smoke appeared east of the resort and on the south end of the fire near the Middle Fork Chena River.
“The heat’s on it, the sun’s on it and it’s drying out,” Incident Commander Zane Brown said late Saturday afternoon. “It’s starting to show itself. This is what we’ve been expecting.”
Fire behavior will likely continue to escalate the next few days with temperatures forecast to climb into the upper 70s and relative humidities dropping into the 20 percent range. While the increased fire behavior is cause for a bit of concern for the nearly 200 firefighters working on the fire, it also shows fire managers where the main sources of heat remain on the fire and they can plan accordingly, Brown said.
Helicopter water drops were used to address some of those spots on Saturday, specifically in the area of Bearpaw Butte about 1 mile south and east of Chena Hot Springs Road between mileposts 52-55. Bucket work was also utilized in an area about 1 mile east of resort where the fire is being held up by Monument Creek. The fire remains on the south side of Monument Creek but there is a green finger of unburned fuel extending across the creek that could provide a runway for fire to jump the creek into burned area of the 2004 Wolf Creek Fire. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the fire continued east but a wind change could cause the fire to hook back toward the hot springs.
The fire was most active on the south edge near the Middle Fork Chena River and Ottertail Creek, where a small group of smokejumpers is working to prep a handful of mining camps and cabins in the event the fire reaches them. But those are the only values at risk in that area and fire managers are more concerned about keeping the fire away from Chena Hot Springs and the cabins/homes on the south side of Chena Hot Springs Road.
Elsewhere on the fire Saturday, crews continued structure protection preparations on cabins and homes on the south side of Chena Hot Springs Road between Mile 42 and the end of the road at Mile 56.5. Firefighters have installed pumps, hose and sprinklers around more than 70 structures on the south side of the road.
“We go in and test the pumps to make sure they’re working, that there are no blown hoses, the pumps are full of fuel, the Fol-Da-Tanks are full of water,” he said, referring to portable water tanks that have been set up at cabins without a water source nearby.
EVACUATION: The “Go” level evacuation order from Mile 48 to Chena Hot Springs at Mile 56.5 still in effect is being reevaluated daily to determine when it can be safely lifted.
CLOSURES: All Alaska State Parks facilities east of milepost 45 Chena Hot Springs Road are closed, including theAngel Rocks Trail and trailhead and Chena Dome Trail and trailhead.
TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTION: A TFR is in effect surrounding the fire including drones. For more information check https://tfr.faa.gov/