Evacuation level for Munson Creek Fire reduced from ‘Go’ to ‘Set’ as threat declines

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

Cause: Lightning                       Fire Size: 38,245 acres

Containment: 6%                    Total Personnel: 129

Tuesday was a productive day for firefighters on the Munson Creek Fire near Chena Hot Springs east of Fairbanks.

That was evidenced by the fact that the “Go” evacuation level in place for Chena Hot Springs Resort and residences along Chena Hot Springs Road from Mile 48 to Mile 56.5 for the past week has been reduced to a “Set.” A “Set” evacuation level means people can remain but should be prepared to leave their home immediately. Few people evacuated the resort or any of the residences along the road during the fire and both the resort and road remained open but the reduced evacuation level is a sign that the fire no longer poses a major threat.

  • A firefighter uses a pulaski to dig up a hot spot on the Munson Creek Fire
  • A firefighter sprays a hot spot on the Munson Creek Fire.
  • A firefighter leans over to feel the ground with her bare hand while mopping up.
  • A firefighter sprays down a hot spot on the Munson Creek Fire.
  • A firefighter sifts dirt through her hands to check for heat.
  • Firefighters dig up hot spots and spray water on them with a hose.
  • A firefighter swings a pulaski tool while digging up hot spots.
  • Firefighters spray hot spots while mopping up a burn operation on the Munson Creek Fire.
  • Firefighters spray hot spots with water on the Munson Creek Fire.

Hard work by firefighters, observed fire behavior the last few days and a moderating weather forecast persuaded fire managers to recommend reducing the evacuation level, Incident Commander Zane Brown with the Alaska Division of Forestry said, adding that he feels  “completely comfortable” doing so.

However, Brown cautioned residents and motorists along Chena Hot Springs Road to use caution driving in the area. There are still firefighters working along the highway corridor checking pumps, hoses and sprinklers that have been set up around more than 70 cabins and homes along the road. There are multiple hidden driveways along the road and Brown urged motorists to be mindful of firefighters and engines in the area.

The fire remains estimated at 38,245 acres but is likely bigger based on growth to the east yesterday. The number of personnel on the fire dropped to 129 as of Wednesday morning and that number will continue to shrink as resources time out or are demobilized. The tentative plan is downsize from a Type 3 to a Type 4 organization on Saturday.

A cold front bringing cooler temperatures, higher relative humidities and possible rain is predicted to move over the fire this evening. The cooler temperatures and higher RH should help limit fire behavior to a minimum.

On Tuesday, the Pioneer Peak Hotshot Crew wrapped up a successful backfiring operation along Monument Creek about 1 mile east of Chena Hot Springs Resort to burn off a roughly 200-acre pocket of green fuel that was an area of concern. The burnout on the south side of the creek lessens the chances of the fire crossing the creek to the north and hooking back around in the direction of the resort. Two crews will spend today mopping up the burn operation. 

Crews also removed pumps, hose and sprinklers that were set up around four structures at the resort to protect them because they were no longer deemed necessary. The pumps, hoses and sprinklers that have been set up around cabins and homes along the south and east sides of the road between mileposts 42 to 55 will remain in place for the time being. The fire remains 1 to 3 miles to the east and south of those structures but it hasn’t shown signs of aggressive movements toward the road.

A group of four smokejumpers that have been protecting a handful of cabins and mining camps along the Middle Fork Chena River will be demobilized today after pulling the pumps, hose and sprinklers from around those values.

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/ 

Categories: Active Wildland Fire, AK Fire Info

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