Firefighters from the Division of Forestry are mopping up a small wildfire north of Fairbanks that started early Thursday evening and was initially thought to be a holdover from last month’s Haystack Fire but is now thought to be a new lightning start.
There were two lightning strikes recorded in the area, including one in close proximity to where the fire started on the edge of the Haystack Fire perimeter. The fire origin was located in a green finger of unburned vegetation between a four-wheeler trail and a dozer line constructed for the Haystack Fire.
The location of the half-acre fire, dubbed the Haystack 2 Fire, and the lightning strikes in the area suggest the fire may have been ignited by lightning. In addition, firefighters on the Haystack Fire spent several days searching for hotspots along the perimeter in that area, including using drones equipped with infrared imagery, and found none, bolstering suspicion that lightning could be the culprit. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The fire was reported at 6:15 p.m. by a local resident from the Haystack Subdivision who saw smoke in the area of the Haystack Fire, believing it was a rekindling from that fire that burned 927 acres a month ago.Fairbanks Area Forestry responded and found what initially was reported as a 3- to 5-acre fire along a dozer line put in along the northwest perimeter of the Haystack Fire. A rapid and robust initial attack by water bombing aircraft tamped down the fire while a load of eight BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers and Fairbanks Area Forestry Helitack were deployed to attack the fire on the ground. An air tanker also dropped a load of retardant along a flank of the fire to keep it in check.
The White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew was pulled off the Munson Creek Fire east of Fairbanks and arrived at the fire at 9:30 p.m. to join jumpers and Helitack on the fireline. The crew was shuttled in by helicopter.
The aerial assault proved highly effective, as four water-scooping aircraft made a total of 18 water drops totaling 6,300 gallons of water on the fire. A helicopter from Fairbanks Area Forestry also made multiple water drops on the fire.
Crews were able to quickly halt the spread of the fire within a couple of hours and worked until about 11 p.m. mopping up to ensure it did not spark up overnight. Based on further assessment, the size of the fire was reduced from 3-5 acres to just one-half acre. Firefighters camped at the fire to monitor it through the night.
Firefighters gridded the fire Friday morning and only remaining heat found was in a berm pile that was part of the dozer line put in for the Haystack Fire. Firefighter tore apart the berm pile to extinguish the heat.
Smokejumpers were released from the fire this morning and the White Mountain Crew will be released back to the Munson Creek Fire when an initial attack squad from Fairbanks Area Forestry arrives today to take over mop-up duties. Fire managers expect to have the blaze mopped up and fully contained by the end of shift today. The initial attack squad and two Fairbanks Forestry technicians will Monitor the blaze overnight and tomorrow before the fire is placed in Monitor status.