Start Date: 06/18/2021 Location: 52 miles E of Fairbanks, AK
Cause: Lightning Fire Size: 38,245 acres
Containment: 6% Total Personnel: 134
Firefighters on the Munson Creek Fire near Chena Hot Springs east of Fairbanks are in a holding pattern as they wait to see how the fire responds to a windy, hot day.
Because the fire is burning in what is mostly a Limited protection area where wildfires are allowed to function in their natural ecological role, firefighters are not actively suppressing the fire as much as they are managing it to ensure that it doesn’t threaten the Chena Hot Springs Resort or cabins and homes along Chena Hot Springs Road.
Firefighters have set up protection measures around the resort and more than 70 cabins and homes on the south side of the Chena Hot Springs Road from miles 42-56 to protect them should the fire rear up and make a run at the road. But that hasn’t happened yet, and cooler, wetter weather forecast to move in Wednesday night would further reduce those chances. The fire remains 1-3 miles south and east of the road.
“It’s pretty much a waiting game to see what the fire is going to do,” operations chief Jerry Horton said on Monday.
Forecasters are calling for another day of hot, dry conditions today with temperatures near 80 degrees and near Red Flag conditions this afternoon. Southwest winds of 10-15 mph with gusts to 25 mph are forecast over the fire area Tuesday night into Wednesday that could increase fire behavior. A cold front will push over the fire Wednesday, bringing cooler temperatures, higher relative humidity and even a chance of rain.
One of the main areas of concern remains a patch of unburned vegetation south of Monument Creek about 1 mile east of Chena Hot Springs Resort. Fire managers would like to see that patch of fuel burn off so firefighters can mop it up and ensure the fire doesn’t jump to the north side of the creek, where it could then hook around and threaten the resort if winds aligned. A firing operation to burn out the area on Monday failed to produce the desired results and firefighters will re-evaluate conditions today. The fire could burn that area naturally.
The estimated size of the fire increased slightly on Monday from 36,609 to 38,245 acres, which is primarily a result of growth on the south and east edges of the fire. The fire remains north of the Middle Fork Chena River. With only a handful of cabins and mining camps in that area that have already had protection measures set up around them, fire managers are content to let that area continue burning.
The number of personnel working on the fire has dropped by about 70 in the past two days and stood at 134 on Tuesday morning. Once fire managers are confident the fire doesn’t pose a risk to the resort or cabins and homes along the road, they will downsize further. Firefighters will then monitor the fire from the air and road. The pumps, hoses and sprinklers that have been set up around the structures will remain in place until any perceived threat has passed.
EVACUATION: The “Go” level evacuation order from Mile 48 to Chena Hot Springs at Mile 56.5 remains in effect as a precaution for today’s wind event.
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 https://tfr.faa.gov/