Rain, cooler temps keep Munson Creek Fire quiet; downsizing of resources continues

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

Cause: Lightning                       Fire Size: 40,081 acres

Containment: 6%                    Total Personnel: 119

Rain and cooler conditions over the Munson Creek Fire helped temper fire behavior on Wednesday. Nearly three-tenths of an inch of rain was recorded at a remote automated weather station located near the fire. While the rain and cooler weather kept fire growth and activity to a minimum, the fire continues to grow to the north and east where fire managers are content to let it burn into the wilderness.

Smoke rises from a wildfire burning through black spruce.
The Munson Creek Fire continues burning east along the Middle Fork Chena River on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.

Based on the latest satellite imagery, the fire is now estimated at 41,081 acres. Most of the new growth is east of Far Mountain, where the fire is burning deeper into a remote area where few values are threatened. Fire activity on the western perimeter closer to Chena Hot Springs Resort and cabins and homes along Chena Hot Springs Road has been minimal. The fire remains 1-3 miles east and south of the road between mileposts 45 and 56.5 and hasn’t shown signs of aggressive movement toward the road.

The ‘Go’ evacuation order that had been in place for more than a week for the resort and more than 70 homes/cabins along the road corridor was reduced to a ‘Set’ evacuation notice on Wednesday due to the diminishing threat posed by the fire in that area. A ‘Set’ evacuation notice means people should be ready to leave immediately if the fire becomes a threat again.

A firefighters walks away from a helicopter carrying his pack.
Smokejumper Greg Conaway disembarks from a helicopter on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 after spending several days on the Middle Fork Chena River protecting cabins and mining claims from the Munson Creek Fire. Helicopter manage Brian Deck is in the background. Ira Hardy/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry

Motorists along Chena Hot Springs Road should caution driving in the area. There are still firefighters and firefighting equipment working along the highway corridor. There are multiple hidden driveways along the road that could pose a risk to firefighters as they enter and exit those areas.

There were 119 personnel assigned to the fire as of Thursday morning but that number will shrink in the next few days as resources time out or are demobilized. The tentative plan is to downsize from a Type 3 to a Type 4 organization on Saturday. One crew, 6 engines, 1 helicopter and a small number of overhead personnel will remain to monitor the fire from the road and air. The total number of personnel remaining on the fire will be about 40.

On Wednesday, crews continued mopping up a backfiring operation along Monument Creek about 1 mile east of Chena Hot Springs to secure that portion of line. Firefighters are backhauling unneeded supplies as they are pulled off the fire.

Four smokejumpers that had been working to protect a handful of cabins and mining camps along the Middle Fork Chena River on the southern and eastern edges of the fire were demobilized on Wednesday.

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 but firefighters will pull the pumps and store them in a safe location at the fire for security reasons. They will be re-installed, if necessary.

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/

A fork lift loads fuel barrels on a truck loaded with pallets of rolled fire hose.
Ricky Frank gives directions as a pallet of supplies is loaded onto a flatbed truck while Ian Johnson operates the forklift. Ira Hardy/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry

Categories: Active Wildland Fire, AK Fire Info

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