Three crews are mopping up a 5-acre wildfire in west Fairbanks today after an aggressive air and ground assault late Friday afternoon snuffed out the emerging fire near homes off Yankovich Road.
Approximately 50 firefighters are searching out any hotspots that remain in the fire. The fire is located in the area of the University of Alaska Fairbanks ski trails just south of the UAF Large Animal Research Station on Yankovich Road.
The Midnight Sun Hotshots, the North Star Crew and an initial attack squad from Fairbanks Area Forestry are working together to seek out and destroy any hotspots that are found to fully contain the fire.
The Fairbanks IA squad camped at the fire to monitor it overnight after crews worked late into the evening to contain the fire. The Midnight Suns and North Stars returned to the line early this morning.
The cause of the fire is undetermined and is under investigation.
The Yankovich Road Fire was reported by a pilot at 2:30 p.m. Friday and quickly put up a 500-foot smoke column that prompted multiple calls to the Northern Forestry Dispatch Center in Fairbanks. The fire was burning in black spruce and exhibited rank 4 fire behavior (on a scale of 1-6 with 6 the highest) with single tree torching and flame lengths of 10-12 feet. There were numerous homes in the area, one of which was only about 100 yards north of the fire.
Four water scooping planes based at the BLM Alaska Fire Service on Fort Wainwright and three helicopters were launched to drop water on the fire while ground troops were mobilized to the fire. Working in a well-orchestrated attack, the water scoopers and helicopters proved highly effective in halting the spread of the fire while firefighters made their way to the fire. The planes were scooping water from the Fairbanks International Airport float pond only a few miles away while the helicopters were dipping buckets of water from Smith Lake only about 1 mile away, making for quick turnaround times.
The three above mentioned crews were mobilized to the fire, as was the White Mountain Crew, which was pulled off the Munson Creek Fire near Chena Hot Springs about an hour away. Eight BLM AFS smokejumpers were also deployed on the fire for a total of about 80 firefighters on the ground. The three crews arrived on scene by 4:30 p.m. and immediately began working to get a hose line around the fire to provide a water source for the ground attack.
Engines from both the University and Fairbanks fire departments also responded to the fire to assist with structure protection and suppression efforts. Alaska State Troopers closed off Yankovich Road to ensure a safe working environment for firefighters. The road was later re-opened at around at around 8 p.m.
Firefighters worked on the fireline until about 10:30 p.m. and were able to get a hose line around the entire fire by the end of the evening.
The White Mountain Crew returned to the Munson Creek Fire at the end of shift on Friday while the Midnight Suns, the North Stars and the Fairbanks IA squad returned to the fire Saturday morning to mop up. The crews are available for initial attack on any new starts from the fire area.
There has been a burn suspension in effect in the Fairbanks Area for several days due to high wildfire danger caused by hot, dry conditions. All brush/debris burning and the use of burn barrels is prohibited during a burn suspension. Small campfires are allowed but given the dry conditions, people should use extreme caution and be certain any campfire is fully extinguished before leaving by drowning it with water and stirring it with a stick or shovel until it is cold to the touch.