Mother Nature has delivered what may be a knockout blow to the Munson Creek Fire.
More than an inch of rain was recorded over the fire area this past weekend to severely dampen fire behavior on the 54,050-acre that has been burning near Chena Hot Springs east of Fairbanks for the past six weeks. With more rain and cooler temperatures in the forecast the remainder of the week, very little activity is anticipated on the Munson Creek or other wildfires still active in the Interior. Only time will tell if the rain will be enough to put an end to the fire season.
The significant drop in fire behavior on the Munson Creek Fire prompted fire managers with the Alaska Division of Forestry to recommend lowering the evacuation level for residences east of Mile 48 Chena Hot Springs Road from “Set” to “Ready” on Monday. A “Ready” evacuation level means that residents should be aware that there is a possible threat in the area and to begin preparing for a potential evacuation.
The fire received rain on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the heaviest rainfall reported on Sunday. As of Monday morning, a remote automated weather station near the fire had received 1.2 inches of precipitation since Friday.
The change in the weather was a welcome relief to fire managers and home and cabin owners at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road. Just four days ago, the evacuation alert level was increased from “Ready” to “Set” due to increased fire behavior caused by record hot, dry weather that pushed the fire to within one-quarter mile of homes and cabins between Miles 52-53 Chena Hot Springs Road.
The Fairbanks #1 Type 2 hand crew that was assigned to the fire on Thursday to reinstall pumps and sprinklers around homes and cabins will be released today. The pumps, hose and sprinklers that were set up around more than a dozen structures will likely be pulled later this week, if the cool, wet weather continues.
Fairbanks Area Forestry will continue to have an engine patrol the road between Miles 52-53 while also monitoring the fire from the air.