Munson Creek Fire near Chena Hot Springs still “chugging along” but no major growth

Start Date: 06/18/2021             Location: 52 miles E of Fairbanks, AK 

Cause: Lightning                       Fire Size: 36,609 acres

Containment: 6%                    Total Personnel: 180

The Munson Creek Fire near Chena Hot Springs 50 miles east of Fairbanks kept “chugging along” on Sunday but was generally well behaved as firefighters monitored its progress to ensure it didn’t throw any surprises at them.

The 36,609-acre wildfire has been burning for more than three weeks since it was ignited by lightning on June 18 about 5 miles south of Chena Hot Springs. Because the fire started in a Limited protection area where wildfires are typically left to function in their normal ecological role, firefighters have not been trying to fully contain it but instead working to ensure it doesn’t threaten Chena Hot Springs Resort or dozens of cabins and homes along Chena Hot Springs Road between mileposts 42 to 56.5. There are 180 firefighters working on the fire.

An air tanker drops a stream of red fire retardant on the Munson Creek Fire.
Air tanker 52 drops a load of fire retardant to slow the progress of the Munson Creek Fire on Sunday, July 11, 2021. Ira Hardy/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry

So far, firefighters have been successful in steering the fire away from the resort, cabins and homes while allowing it to play its natural role on the landscape. They have cleared brush and installed pumps, hoses and sprinklers around more than 70 homes and cabins on the south side of the road closest to the fire to protect them if the fire makes a run toward the road. The fire is currently 1-3 miles south and east of the road between miles 45-55.

Firefighters stand around a map of the Munson Creek Fire laid out on the back of a pickup truck on Sunday, July 11, 2021.
Division Supervisor Aaron Schumacher, left, points out a location to use retardant on the Munson Creek Fire while discussing tactics with Task Force Leader Erik Jansen, second from left, Incident Commander Zane Brown, second from right, and Operations Chief Jerry Horton on Sunday, July 11, 2021. The load of retardant was used to keep the fire from spreading towards cabins and homes along Chena Hot Springs Road between mileposts 52 – 54. Sam Harrel/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry

On Sunday, the fire continued skulking around as it has been for the last several days. Fire behavior consisted mostly of smoldering and creeping, though there was some active torching and burning on parts of the northeast corner a mile or so east of the resort and on the northwest corner behind Angel Rocks. Helicopter water drops were used to douse hot spots in those areas to keep the fire in check. Two helicopters made a total of 111 bucket drops on the fire Sunday totaling 33,300 gallons of water.

“It really hasn’t moved much except in that northeast corner where it’s probably burned another 200 or 300 acres,” said operations chief Jerry Horton. “It’s just chugging along and burning up pockets (of unburned vegetation) here and there. It’s doing very well on its own.”

Firefighters were considering a burnout operation on the northeast corner of the fire east of the resort’s airstrip to clean out a pocket of unburned fuel just south of Monument Creek to keep it from crossing the creek to the north. However, the burn operation was put on hold when the fire worked its way into the area and began burning the green fuel naturally. Firefighters will continue monitoring the fire’s progress along the creek.

A picture of a trail through burned forest with green hills in the distance.
The Ridge Trail above Chena Hot Springs Resort after being burned over by the Munson Creek Fire July 5, 2021. Nate Zalewski/UAF Nanooks Crew

Fire managers did get some unplanned assistance in the form of two “free” air tanker drops on Sunday – one of retardant and one of water. An air tanker based at Fairbanks International Airport was planning to jettison a load of retardant that had been pumped into the tanker a few days ago but had not been used. Fire managers, who were asked if they had a use for it, utilized the retardant to paint an east-west line just south and west of Bearpaw Butte south of the road to help keep the fire from advancing closer to the road. The fire is currently about 2 ½ miles east of the road in that area, hung up in a riparian area where fire managers hope it remains. The tanker then dropped a 2,000-gallon load of water on an active portion of the fire just south of Bearpaw Butte to flush out the old retardant.

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 the Angel Rocks Trail and trailhead and Chena Dome Trail and trailhead.

TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTION: A TFR for aircraft and drones is in effect surrounding the fire. For more information check


The latest perimeter map of the 36,609-acre Munson Creek Fire.
The latest perimeter map of the 36,609-acre Munson Creek Fire. For a downloadable PDF version go to

Categories: Active Wildland Fire, AK Fire Info

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