Live updates: Level 2 evacuation is in effect for those in the Chena Hot Springs Road area
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s News Source is bringing you the latest wildfire news as it happens. All live updates will be posted here as updates come in.
Aug. 5 - 11:49 a.m.
A level 2 evacuation is in effect for residents in the Chena Hot Springs Road area
The Fairbanks North Star Borough Emergency Operations is advising that a level 2 evacuation is in effect for those in homes and cabins east of mile 48 of Chena Hot Springs Road.
What this means is that residents and those in the area must be ready to leave the area if a level 3 evacuation is put in place.
At last check on the Munson Creek Fire, burning east of Fairbanks near Chena Hot Springs, was about 54,000-acres. The Alaska Division of Forestry is calling the fire Alaska’s largest wildfire this season.
In its last update on July 26, the division said the weather at the time helped suppress the fire’s growth and the evacuation level at the time was put to “ready.”
July 22 - 1:45 p.m.
Black Hills Fire smoke brought calls of concern from Tok
The Alaska Division of Forestry said its station in Tok has received numerous calls to report or ask questions about the Black Hill Fire, which is burning in a limited protection area 56 miles southeast of town.
A press release issued by the division noted that smoke from the fire is visible from the Alaska Highway, Tok Cutoff and Tetlin Road in Tetlin.
The fire was reported Wednesday, and is burning about 2 miles west of Jatahmund Lake and 3 miles east of Nabesna River. The division said it’s estimated to have been about 60 acres on Wednesday afternoon, based on data gathered from a helicopter reconnaissance flight.
“It is burning in black spruce and will continue to grow as the fire is being allowed to burn to function in its natural ecological role,” fire officials said in the release. “There are several lakes and ponds in the area that will serve as natural barriers to help slow the progress of the fire.”
The division said two crews have been tasked with protecting an Alaska Native land allotment with a cabin located within the area. The crews were scheduled to be flown into the fire area Thursday afternoon.
“The crews will work on improving an old saw line that has been cut around the allotment and set up pumps, hose and sprinklers around the cabin that can be turned on in the event the fire threatens the structure,” fire officials said in the release.
July 19 - 7:30 a.m.
Fire crews mop up Yankovich Road Fire
The 5-acre Yankovich Road Fire, located in the area of the University of Alaska Fairbanks ski trails, was being mopped up on Saturday, the Alaska Division of Forestry said.
After an “aggressive air and ground assault” Friday afternoon, the three fire crews on scene extinguished the emerging fire that had been closing in on nearby homes.
“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,” fire officials said in the online update.
The division said they have not determined the cause of the fire and is still under investigation.
The 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. There were numerous homes in the area, one of which was only about 100 yards north of the fire, the division said.
“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,” the division said.”
The UAF and Fairbanks fire departments also responded to the fire to help protect structures at risk. Alaska State Troopers closed off Yankovich Road, but it was later reopened at around 8 p.m. that day.
Firefighters were on the scene until about 10:30 p.m. that day and managed to fortify a hose line around the entire fire.
Cultas Creek Fire
On Friday, firefighters were still battling against the Cultas Creek Fire to protect historical cabins in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, according to the Alaska National Park Service.
The fire, which was caused by lightning on June 17, was last reported to be about 3,000 acres at the beginning of July, but the park service said it was 32,645 acres and burning from both sides on Friday. Fire crews also reported the fire to be within 1-3 miles of the historical cabins at Ben Creek and Sam Creek.
As of July 3, firefighters from the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska Fire Service cleared brush and set up sprinkler systems around the historical cabins at Ben Creek and Sam Creek. Protective measures were taken for the Remote Area Weather Station nearby as well.
“If a rapid increase in fire behavior or activity is experienced, efforts will be upscaled to ensure confidence in the survival of these Gold Rush era sites,” park officials said Saturday. “The NPS has a helicopter on site and personnel are providing support.”
The park service said fire activity is predicted to be most active near the mouth of the Charley River and warned people to be mindful of the fire and smoke in the area.
Munson Creek Fire
The Alaska Division of Forestry sent out its final daily update for the Munson Creek Fire near Fairbanks on Friday.
The division said the 41,092-acre fire, as of Friday, would experience several warm days, which should cause visible smoke coming from the interior of the fire.
Fire crews noted very little visible smoke on the hillside behind the Chena Hot Springs Resort on Thursday.
According to the update, fire is still growing toward the north and east, away from Chena Hot Springs and other structures at risk.
“Fire activity on the western perimeter closer to Chena Hot Springs Resort, cabins and homes along Chena Hot Springs Road remains minimal,” the update said. “The fire remains 1-3 miles east and south of the road between mileposts 45 and 56.5.”
The division said the resources that will remain with the smaller crew to monitor the fire, by the road and from the air, include one crew, six engines, one helicopter and a small number of overhead personnel.
“Future updates will be published as dictated by fire activity and information needs,” the division said.
July 15 - 11:55 a.m.
Weather continues to play a key role in fighting the Munson Creek Fire
An update from the Alaska Division of Forestry said recent rain in the area is helping limit the growth of the Munson Creek 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,” wrote the division.
The fire, burning near Chena Hot Springs Resort, is over 40,000 acres. The fire was caused by lightning and is estimated to be about 6% contained.
Currently, the resort and those living in the area have been put on a “Set” evacuation notice, according to the division. This means that those in the area should be ready to leave if the fire becomes a threat once again. Previously the evacuation notice was at a “Go.”
Meanwhile, the divisions say that fire personnel will continue to leave the area as crews transition to a smaller team. To put into perspective, the division says 119 personnel were assigned to the fire as of Thursday morning and the plan is to downsize to about 40 people on the fire.
July 14 - 11:45 a.m.
Munson Creek Fire threat declines, evacuation level decreases
The evacuation level for the Chena Hot Springs Resort and other residences near the Munson Creek Fire has decreased from “Go” to “Set,” meaning that people can remain in the area but should be prepared to leave their homes immediately if the fire worsens.
The “Go” level was put in place for buildings along Chena Hot Springs Road from mile 48 to mile 56.5 last week. An update from the Alaska Division of Forestry said few people evacuated the resort and residences along the road and the reduced evacuation level is “a sign that the fire no longer poses a major threat.”
Incident Commander Zane Brown said a moderating weather forecast, hard work by firefighters and observed fire behavior led to the decision to reduce the evacuation level. Residents and motorists in the area are still encouraged to use caution, as firefighters are still working along the highway.
The fire is estimated at 38,245 acres, but the division said that it’s actually likely larger than that based on growth to the east on Tuesday. It is only 6% contained.
July 13 - 1:05 p.m.
Firefighters demobilize from Dry Creek Fire
The Bureau of Land Management said firefighters are taking on the final tasks before demobilizing Wednesday. The 50,745-acre Dry Creek Fire will be changed to monitor status upon their exit.
“BLM Alaska Fire Service will keep a close eye on the fire with daily flights and manage it from Fairbanks to ensure none of the numerous sites firefighters have spent weeks working to keep safe are impacted,” officials said in the fire update Tuesday.
Although no firefighters will be present after Wednesday, equipment was left behind to allow firefighters to quickly mobilize and protect nearby properties.
According to BLM, the fire has been creeping and smoldering in small patches, mostly near the control lines in the northwest and northeast corners.
The Dry Creek Fire did see an increase in activity on Monday, but fire managers at the scene don’t expect any significant growth due to the prescribed burn in 2018, recent firefighting efforts and the Zitziana River to the east. However, the BLM said the fire will continue to burn, causing occasional smoke throughout the summer — at least until plenty of rain and cooler weather arrives.
Munson Creek Fire
Firefighters at the scene of the Munson Creek Fire are awaiting how the fire responds to the wind and heat on Tuesday, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Forecasters are calling for hot, dry weather conditions Tuesday, with temperatures near 80 degrees and near Red Flag conditions this afternoon, according to the division. It added that southwest winds of 10-15 mph with gusts to 25 mph are forecast over the fire area Tuesday night into Wednesday, which could increase fire behavior.
The division said firefighters are currently allowing the fire to burn most of a limited protection area since wildfires are allowed to occur naturally. They are, however, making sure the flames do not threaten the Chena Hot Springs Resort or cabins and homes along Chena Hot Springs Road.
The division said a cold front will push over the fire Wednesday, bringing cooler temperatures, higher relative humidity and a chance of rain.
July 12 - 1:00 p.m.
Munson Creek Fire saw more activity over the weekend, but ‘no major growth’
The Alaska Division of Forestry said the Munson Creek Fire was “chugging along” but was “well behaved” on Sunday as firefighters monitored points of interest to protect nearby structures.
So far, the 180 firefighters on duty have been successful in steering the fire away from the resort, cabins and homes while allowing it to play its natural role on the landscape. As of Monday morning, the fire’s recorded size remains at 36,609 acres.
“It really hasn’t moved much except in that northeast corner where it’s probably burned another 200 or 300 acres,” said Jerry Horton, an operations chief with the division. “It’s just chugging along and burning up pockets (of unburned vegetation) here and there. It’s doing very well on its own.”
The division said firefighters have cleared brush and installed pumps, hoses and sprinklers around more than 70 homes and cabins on the south side of Chena Hot Springs Road closest to the flames. The fire is currently 1-3 miles south and east of the road between miles 45 and 55.
On Sunday, the fire continued skulking around as it has been for the past several days. Fire behavior consisted mostly of smoldering and creeping, though there was some active torching and burning on parts of the northeast corner, a mile or so east of the resort, and on the northwest corner behind Angel Rocks, according to the division.
Helicopter water drops were used to douse hot spots in those areas to keep the fire in check. Two helicopters made a total of 111 bucket drops on the fire Sunday totaling 33,300 gallons of water.
An air tanker based out of Fairbanks International Airport made a couple of 2,000-gallon drops as well — one of retardant and one of water. The tanker had been filled up with retardant a few days ago but had not been used, the division said.
July 11 - 5:21 p.m.
Munson Creek Fire acts up once again as expected
The Alaska Division of Forestry says the Munson Creek Fire acted up once again this weekend after low fire activity for the past few days.
“Warmer temperatures and bright sunshine caused the Munson Creek Fire to awaken on Saturday from a four-day slumber caused by cooler, cloudier, wetter conditions,” the division wrote in an online update.
Fire officials believe the fire’s behavior will probably escalate the next few days with temperatures expected to rise and “relative humidities dropping into the 20 percent range.”
All Alaska State Parks facilities east of milepost 45 Chena Hot Springs Road are closed.
Currently, the fire is 36,609 acres and zero percent contained.
The fire is burning near the Chena Hot Springs Resort and has damaged buildings throughout the area, including the resort.
July 10 - 9:30 a.m.
No significant fire growth is expected for the Dry Creek Fire
The Bureau of Land Management Fire Service says in an update Friday that fire managers don’t expect significant fire growth from the Dry Creek Fire despite the warmer weather coming.
“Firefighters are wrapping up work to make sure fire control lines help keep the more than 51,000-acre Dry Creek Fire in check during the hotter, drier weather predicted to start this weekend,” BLM Fire Service wrote online.
The fire is currently burning about a few miles south of the Manley Hot Springs near the Tanana River.
The Dry Creek fire was ignited by lightning on June 14 and eventually combined with another, smaller wildfire nearby.
Fire officials say that firefighters and gear will begin to leaving the field as things wind down due to successful fire control lines and other precautions that were put in place.
Officials do add that some equipment will be left in place in some areas in case the property closest to the fire needs to be protected.
July 9 - 1:10 p.m.
Firefighters get a breather against Munson Creek Fire due to cooler weather
The Munson Creek Fire has yet to cause any damage to structures close to the fire, including the Chena Hot Springs Resort and other buildings throughout the area.
“Everybody is in good spirits and working hard,” said Tim Mowry, a spokesperson for the Alaska Division of Forestry, who reported no significant growth to the blaze. “The cooler weather is sort of a relief for them ... they would much rather be working in weather like this than 80-degree, hot weather.”
Recent cool, damp weather conditions allowed firefighters to hold the fire behind a line from Bear Paw Butte to the aurora viewing building on the south side of the resort, according to the division’s update on Friday.
Helicopters attacked the western edge by repeatedly dumping 300 gallons of water at a time on the wildfire to stop it from expanding toward Chena Hot Spring Road.
“These guys are working 16 hours a day, digging lines, hiking up and down hills, working in full protective gear and carrying a pack,” Mowry said. “It’s really arduous work ... but they would much rather be fighting a fire than sitting around waiting for one.”
Crews continue to locate, identify and determine protection needs for cabins and homes on the north side of Chena Hot Springs Road from mile 42 to 56. The eastern and southern edges of the fire were not as active but are expected to keep expanding.
“Things are doing well,” Mowry said. “We are supposed to get some warmer, drier weather moving in this weekend, into early next week, and that’s really what we’re sort of waiting for to see how that fire responds.”
July 8 - 2:38 p.m.
Munson Creek fire now estimated to be over 36,000 acres
More accurate mapping from the air has shown the true size of the Munson Creek fire, burning close to the Chena Hot Springs Resort about 50 miles east of Fairbanks, to be over 36,000 acres.
Crew members clocked the lightning-ignited blaze at 36,609 acres during a reconnaissance flight on Wednesday, the Alaska Division of Forestry reported in a Thursday release. The increase is due to both better mapping and actual fire growth.
Three days of cooler, wet weather have helped firefighters make progress against the wildfire that rapidly spread toward the resort on Monday.
An evacuation order is still in effect for the resort, and for residents of Chena Hot Springs Road starting at mile 48. The resort’s owner, Bernie Karl, and a number of resort guests and staff have opted to stay, as have about 30 residents of homes and cabins along the road.
“Precipitation this week was not sufficient to put the fire out but has kept it in check and smoldering through the understory,” the division wrote in its update.
Fire activity could pick back up again later next week, when temperatures are projected to rise, according to the division.
The Munson Creek fire began on June 18 and currently has more than 200 personnel assigned to fight it. They’re continuing to w protect homes and structures on the south side of Chena Hot Springs Road, according to the division, as well as starting to locate and evaluate cabins on the north side of the road.
“The cooler, humid days are allowing crews to work at the fire’s edge between Bear Paw Butte southwest of the resort and the aurora viewing cabin to the southeast,” the release states. “They are cutting trees and mopping up, making sure there is no fuel or fire at the edge to stop the forward progression of fire toward Chena Hot Springs.”
The fire’s western edge is still about a mile away from Chena Hot Springs Road. The resort remains open, the division said, and none of its structures have been damaged so far.
A temporary flight restriction remains in place above the area of the fire, and Alaska State Parks facilities east of mile 45 of Chena Hot Springs Road are closed. This includes Angel Rocks Trail and the Chena Dome Trail.
July 7 - 4:48 p.m.
Rainy weather helps moderate behavior of Munson Creek fire
The cooler, wet weather that moved through Interior Alaska on Tuesday and overnight has aided in the fight to contain and control the Munson Creek fire burning east of Fairbanks near the Chena Hot Springs Resort. It’s estimated to be over 25,000 acres in size.
Fairbanks received .11 inches of rain and nothing more was reported Wednesday so far.
Thunderstorms and showers will pop up in the afternoon and evenings through Friday night. These showers will be isolated.
Winds are always a factor for firefighters, too. South winds are expected to stay light, up to 5 miles per hour.
Temperatures at night will fall in the 40s to lower 50s. Relative humidity is expected to stay above 40% for most locations in the region.
On Saturday, weather turns warmer with partly to mostly sunny skies and highs in the 60s and 70s, even closing in on 80 degrees in spots.
Even though the Interior was wetter than normal in 2020, with Fairbanks seeing above average snowfall, according to a climate report from Alaska Climate Research Center, that doesn’t ensure an easy fire season this following summer.
July 7 - 2:45 p.m.
Moderate weather subdues Dry Creek fire near Tanana River
According to the Alaska Division of Forestry, cool and wet weather over the past few days has “greatly reduced” the fire activity of the state’s largest wildfire, which is currently burning about 6 miles south of the Manley Hot Springs near the Tanana River.
The Dry Creek fire was ignited by lightning on June 14 and eventually combined with another, smaller wildfire nearby. It was last estimated to be more than 48,400 acres, according to an online update from the division on Wednesday.
The fire remains south of the Tanana River and west of the Zitziana River, according to the division.
“Smokejumpers continue to patrol the Zitziana River to keep an eye out in case the fire spots over this windy river,” the release states. “They are also regularly checking on a cabin that is on the northern end of the Zitziana River.”
The more temperate weather has allowed several personnel to demobilize from the fire, the division wrote. There is currently a single crew of 26 people working the fire, and the division reports that the North Star Fire Crew, a Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service training crew, will replace an outgoing crew to secure the northwest edge of the fire and make sure property at the confluence of the Tanana River and hot spring’s slough is protected.
There is also a group of cabins about 9 miles southeast of the fire, according to the division. Smokejumpers constructed a fire break around the cabins upriver from Junction Island.
A Notice to Airmen remains in place for the area of the fire, according to the division’s release, to advise aviators of the increase in firefighting aircraft in the area of the airport at Manley Hot Springs.
July 6 - 10:05 p.m.
Rain, cool weather slows Munson Creek fire’s approach to Chena Hot Springs
Rain and cooler temperatures on Tuesday have provided firefighters with an opportunity to make progress fending off a wildfire on the doorstep of the Chena Hot Springs Resort.
Alaska Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Tim Mowry said Tuesday night that fire activity was tempered compared to the progress it made Monday, when it came within 100 yards of the resort about 50 miles east of Fairbanks. The Munson Creek fire is still about 100 yards away, and is moving down a hillside toward the resort in “fingers” rather than as one wall of fire, Mowry said.
“So we can strategically position firefighters where it’s coming down and they can meet it and engage it and, you know, take care of it,” he said. “Because it’s not a — like I said it’s not a big wall of flames.”
The lightning-caused fire has been burning east of Fairbanks since June 18. It progressed close enough to the resort and a residential area along Chena Hot Spring Road on Monday that fire managers ordered a Level 3 “Go” evacuation for the area.
About 30 residents have chosen to stay, and crews have been working to protect homes and cabins along the road and structures at the resort. As of Tuesday evening, Mowry said firefighters had prepped more than 70 cabins. This is done by wetting them with strategically placed hoses, lines and sprinklers.
At the last estimate, the blaze was thought to have grown to over 25,700 acres, Mowry said.
The moderate conditions brought on Tuesday were favorable, he said, and allowed crews to complete a lot of work both on the defensive side by conducting preventative burnouts and prepping buildings, and by working directly on the fire itself on the hillside behind the hot springs.
“They did get about an hour of ... slow, steady rainfall out there, which really helped,” Mowry said. “It was still smokey, but it was overcast and so that really calmed the fire down quite a bit.”
The rain isn’t enough to put the wildfire out, but it provided firefighters with time to put in significant work to protect the resort and surrounding homes and cabins.
“It was just a much calmer day out there,” Mowry said, adding that the forecast shows a few more cool days ahead before it warms up again.
Firefighters also used helicopters on Tuesday to drop water directly on the oncoming fire to slow it down, Mowry said.
Personnel from the Pioneer Peak Hotshots were also brought to the Munson Creek fire on Tuesday, bringing the total count of people fighting the blaze to around 170, Mowry said.
Crews continue to inventory cabins in the area, he said, so that they’ll know what would need to be done with structures that haven’t yet been prepped in the case that fire activity amps up again.
Tuesday night, there will be a small patrol surveying cabins and homes between mile 48 of Chena Hot Springs Road and the resort, Mowry said. This is to keep an eye out for any fire activity and an added security measure for the vacated buildings.
A temporary flight restriction is in place over the area of the Munson Creek fire, which includes drones.
July 6 - 1:10 p.m.
Munson Creek fire grows and moves closer to resort
The Munson Creek fire burned close to the Chena Hot Springs Resort and has grown to around 25,000 acres in size as of Tuesday morning, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry spokesperson Tim Mowry.
No structures were reported to have been lost. The fire, however, did come “within 100 yards of the resort.” Mowry said firefighters stationed around the facility stopped it from getting any closer to the resort.
“The fire continues to (head) back down the hillside behind the hot springs,” Mowry said. “Firefighters are strategically positioned to when it approaches the resort.”
The division does not have an accurate count of people who evacuated the area, but noted that the resort remains open with guests and staff currently there, according to Mowry.
“To the best of my knowledge, there are about 30 people who said they won’t be evacuating,” Mowry said.
The resort initially posted Monday evening that it would remain open and operating on its Facebook page, but the post has since been removed.
To protect the resort from the encroaching fire, crews have wet the buildings closest to it with hoses and sprinklers, and did the same to cabins closest to the fire. Pilot cars have been escorting vehicles away from the resort to avoid traffic conflicting with firefighting vehicles, the Division of Forestry wrote on a Tuesday online update.
The western edge of the fire has gotten closer to Chena Hot Springs Road, the division reports, but is still about a mile south of the closest cabins and homes at the end of that road.
Those evacuating can find information on shelter at the Pleasant Valley Store near mile 24 of Chena Hot Springs Road, where the Fairbanks Community Emergency Response Team is stationed.
July 6 - 11:41 a.m.
Burn suspensions in place for various areas in Alaska
The Alaska Division of Forestry said a burn suspension is in effect for the Copper River Basin, Delta Junction, Fairbanks and Tok areas Tuesday due to high wildfire danger and ongoing wildfire activity. The Fairbanks area suspension includes the Fairbanks, Salcha and Railbelt sub-areas.
Brush and debris burning and the use of burn barrels are prohibited during a burn suspension. Small campfires less than 3 feet in diameter are allowed, but tools and water should be on hand. People should fully extinguish campfires before leaving by drowning them repeatedly with water and stirring until they are cold to the touch.
July 5 - 9:53 p.m.
Munson Creek Fire has advanced to within a half mile of Chena Hot Springs
Firefighters are in position to defend a number of homes and structures as the Alaska Division of Forestry reports the Munson Creek fire is now within a half mile of the Chena Hot Springs Resort.
There have not been any reports of structures being burned by the nearly 20,000-acre wildfire yet, the division wrote in a Monday night release. Firefighters are in position to defend the resort as well as cabins and homes in the area of Chena Hot Springs Road. Residents in that area and guests at the resort were ordered to evacuate Monday afternoon.
Part of the fire has also reached Monument Creek, which is a few miles east of the resort. The flames had not crossed the creek, according to the most recent report to the division.
The western edge of the Munson Creek Fire has moved closer to Chena Hot Springs Road, the division reports, but is till 1-2 miles south of the cabins along that road. To protect buildings at the resort, firefighters are wetting them down with hoses, sprinklers and pumps. They’re also burning fuel back along a trail that leads east away from the resort to two yurts, in the hopes of preventing to fire’s advance along that route.
Alaska State Troopers have gone door to door to cabins along Chena Hot Springs Road between mile 48 to the resort, where the evacuation order is in place, warning occupants about the order. As of 8 p.m. Monday, there were 25-30 residents who have not evacuated, according to the division.
“Troopers compiled a list of residents who are not evacuating so fire managers know how many people have not evacuated,” the release states.
Troopers have also spoken to staff and guests at the resort, making them aware of the situation as well, according to the release. According to an earlier release from the division, Chena Hot Springs Resort owner Bernie Karl does not plan to evacuate and will shelter in place, “though some guests and staff at the resort are leaving.”
According to a Monday evening post on the resort’s Facebook page, it is still “open and operating at this time.”
The Fairbanks Community Emergency Response Team has set up at the Pleasant Valley Store, near mile 24 of Chena Hot Springs Road. The team is there to provide those displaced by the evacuation with information about where they can shelter, according to the division.
Members of that team and other volunteers will patrol the road between mile 48 and the resort from midnight to 6 a.m. Wednesday to provide security for cabins and homes that have been evacuated, the release states.
According to the division, much of the Munson Creek fire’s growth on Monday was on its east side, which is east of the hot springs. However, the blaze continues to grow slowly in all directors, they wrote.
July 5 - 7:59 p.m.
Small fire north of Willow a sobering reminder of 2020′s McKinley wildfire
Firefighting crews from multiple local and state agencies controlled and contained a small wildfire that began north of Willow around mile 91 of the Park Highway over the July Fourth weekend. Its timing and proximity to the location of the 2019 McKinley fire prompted sobering memories for area residents.
Crews were able to completely contain the approximately 2-acre Lichen fire by close to midnight after it began on July 4.
“We’re getting a little bit of this moisture here today the day after the fire, July 5, but we need a lot more to get this duff layer and that’s what this fire proved last night,” said Kale Casey with the Alaska Division of Forestry. “It was moving through the tundra, it was moving towards structures, it was getting involved in jackpots of beetle kill, and thick trees.”
The fire sparked close to where the devastating McKinley fire started in 2019. Tracey Stroop is among those who lost their homes in the Mckinley fire. She rebuilt her home on the same property as her previous one, but worried that the Lichen fire would be a repeat of the nightmare she experienced in 2019.
“I immediately was anxious, worried, (and) scared,” Stroop said. “Once you’ve been through that, you’re always on the defense and always scared it’s gonna happen again.”
Crews were able to contain the 2.5-acre fire around 11:10 p.m. on July 4. Both Matanuska-Susitna helitack and retardant tankers took to the skies as water was brought in from Sheep Creek.
“They really knocked that thing down pretty quickly, so we can’t thank them enough for what they do for us,” said Stroop.
July 5 - 5:24 p.m.
Residents near Chena Hot Springs ordered to evacuate as fire intensifies
Fire activity has increased for a wildfire burning east of Fairbanks, forcing fire managers to issue an evacuation order for the Chena Hot Springs Resort and residents in the area along Chena Hot Springs Road from mile 48-56.
The Munson Creek Fire has been burning about 50 miles east of Fairbanks since June 18 and is estimated to be over 19,000 acres in size. The intensity of the fire increased around 3 p.m. Monday, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
In response, a Level 3 “Go” evacuation order was issued by the Fairbanks North Star Borough at 4:15 p.m. Monday, the division wrote in a release, advising residents and resort guests to leave the area immediately.
The call to order an evacuation was made when the Munson Creek fire reached a management action point less than a mile from the hot springs, the division wrote in the release.
“A wind change in the next 45 minutes (was) expected to further influence fire behavior on the ground,” the division wrote. “Most of the fire growth to this point has been to the east of Chena Hot Springs. No structures have been lost at this point.”
The fire is currently advancing toward the resort. Security personnel have been sent to protect vacant cabins and homes in the area.
“Fire managers expect to be able to see flames coming over the ridge toward the resort,” the release states.
Firefighting crews had been working to create a fire break behind the hot springs, but were pulled back and instead are focusing on protecting structures around the resort, according to the division, as well as residential homes and cabins on Chena Hot Springs Road.
The division has ordered additional resources to fight the Munson Creek fire, including more fire engines and personnel to help protect structures and homes. Hoses, sprinklers and pumps have already been set up around some structures at the resort, the division wrote, and around some cabins on the road leading to it.
“Crews will be setting up additional structure protection measures around homes as far west as Mile 48,” the release states.
Officials say the cause of this fire was lightning.
July 5 - 2:17 p.m.
Crews contain small wildfire north of Willow
Firefighters quickly controlled a small wildfire north of Willow at mile 91 of the Park Highway over the Fourth of July weekend.
The Lichen fire started near Lichen Drive in the Upper Susitna area north of Willow the evening of July 4, the division wrote in a release. Local residents were initially evacuated.
Fire departments from Talkeetna, Caswell, Willow, Houston and Central all worked together with Matanuska-Susitna area firefighters to control the blaze. The Lichen fire was completely contained just before midnight, the division reported in a second release.
Crews dropped two loads of fire retardant on the wildfire on July 4. Additionally, a helicopter worked throughout the evening to drop water and douse hot spots, the division wrote.
“The cause of the fire remains under investigation and numerous homes and values at risk in the area were successfully protected,” the release states.
Members of the Pioneer Peak Hotshots are mopping up the fire today and making a grid of the fire area “to ensure that there is no lingering heat in the dry duff layers,” according to the division.
July 3 - 1:35 p.m.
New fire announced by the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
Officials with the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve are reporting a new fire in the area, as well as a growth of an ongoing one.
The park on Friday said the Cultas Creek Fire has grown from 10 acres to an estimated 3,000 acres. NPS says Alaska Fire Service is keeping an eye on the fire and tracking its growth between the Charley River and Sam Creek.
NPS is also announcing a new fire being called the Crescent Creek Fire. The fire is five miles upriver of the Crescent Creek confluence with the Charley River and is estimated at 102 acres.
July 2 - 6:25 p.m.
Wildfire nears Chena Hot Springs, residents warned to be ready to evacuate
The Alaska Division of Forestry says the Munson Creek Fire crossed a ridgeline about 2 miles south of Chena Hot Springs on Friday.
Fire officials say crews are setting up protection measures around structures at Chena Hot Springs Resort and cabins and homes at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road. Firefighters cut a fire line around the resort to help protect it, according to DOF.
“The approximately 100 firefighters working on the fire are not only being challenged by unfavorable winds but also limited visibility due to heavy smoke,” the division wrote in an online update. “Helicopters are dropping water on the fire along the ridgetop.”
The fire is currently estimated at 19,700 acres.
“A ‘Set’ evacuation notice for residents living east of Mile 48 Chena Hot Springs Road and guests at Chena Hot Springs Resort has been issued by the Fairbanks North Star Borough office of Emergency Services,” a release from the department reads. “A ‘Set’ evacuation notice means residents should have their bags and important items packed and be ready to leave their homes immediately if necessary.”
Officials say the cause of the fire was lightning.
June 30 - 3:11 p.m.
Crews working to protect land and cabins from Dry Creek fire
Firefighting crews are working to protect sites potentially threatened by the Dry Creek fire burning fire south of the Manley Hot Springs, east of Tanana.
The largest wildfire currently burning in Alaska, the Dry Creek fire is now estimated to be over 29,800 acres, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry. It’s burning south of the Tanana River and has 63 personnel assigned to fight it.
According to a Wednesday release from the division, firefighters have completed a burn operation in the area to protect an Alaska Native land allotment and another piece of property. Now, they’re focused on protecting other sites that are “within striking distance” of the blaze.
“Smokejumpers are doing a site assessment on a cluster of cabins on the Tanana River farther to the southeast to come up with a structure protection plan,” the release states.
There is also a cabin north of the fire on the bank of the Zitziana River which crews have been visiting to check on the staged firefighting equipment placed there.
“The fire continues to grow, with most activity concentrated in the northwest corner near the Tanana River,’ the division wrote in the release. “However, it’s moving slow to the southwest.”
June 30 - 8:25 a.m.
Munson Creek fire inches toward Chena Hot Springs
The Alaska Division of Forestry said despite cooler conditions recently, the Munson Creek Fire has made some movement toward the top of a ridge and a shelter cabin on the Angel Rocks.
As of Tuesday, The Munson Creek Fire is still estimated at 329 acres, showing minimal activity with smoldering and slow creeping behavior.
The division said the fire does not pose any threat to cabins or homes along Chena Hot Springs Road or the Chena Hot Springs at this time.
“It is being allowed to reduce fuels, create a mosaic of different habitat types and reduce future fire danger similar to a natural fire regime,” said in the division’s update Tuesday. “Fire is an essential ecological process in the Boreal Forest ecosystem in Alaska.”
Brock Creek Fire
The 21-acre Brock Creek fire’s reported containment was decreased to 75% on Tuesday after firefighters inspected the blaze again from ground and air, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Officials said firefighters have cut a saw line around the fire and there is a hose line around the fire to provide water to extinguish any hot spots found along the perimeter. A bulldozer has also cleared a line around the entire fire perimeter.
As of Tuesday morning, crews had mopped up 5 feet inside the perimeter to reduce the potential for flare-ups that could cross the control line. On that day, crews mopped up deeper into the perimeter and patrolled the unburned green area around the fire for any hot spots.
“Fire behavior was described as creeping with isolated tree torching in unburned pockets in the interior of the fire,” officials said in the division’s update Tuesday.
June 28 - 3 p.m.
Brock Road fire reaches 95% containment
The Alaska Division of Forestry said firefighters worked late into Sunday night to suppress the Brock Road fire, which is located 8.5 miles southeast of Fairbanks.
According to a Monday morning update, firefighters managed to push the fire’s containment to 95% by 1 a.m. that day.
Officials said the fire was initially estimated to be 50 acres but was downsized to 21 acres.
After the Haystack fire was fully contained Saturday, officials gave an overview of the fire crews’ total efforts Monday morning.
From June 18 to 26, officials said an estimated 155,000 pounds of cargo and 451 passengers were transported in 40.5 hours of flight time to support efforts to suppress the Haystack fire.
As of Monday, four crews of firefighters were walking remaining grid lines and searching for hot spots, according to the Alaska Incident Management Team.
As of Monday, there are 70 active wildfires burning across the state, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. More than 71,000 acres statewide have been impacted.
June 26 - 2:14 p.m.
Munson Creek fire growth minimal for the second straight day
The Alaska Division of Forestry says the Munson Creek fire is now 329 acres. The fire remains about four miles from the Chena Hot Springs.
Fire officials say containment is at zero percent.
“The fire is burning predominantly in black spruce in a limited protection area where the objective is to monitor fire behavior and growth,” the division wrote in an online update. “No direct suppression action is being taken at this time.”
Officials say the Angel Rocks Trail remains open, but Alaska State Parks has closed Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail for public safety.
The fire was initially reported on June 18.
June 26 - 4:15 p.m.
Haystack fire is now 100% contained
Fire officials say the Haystack fire burning about 8 miles north of Fairbanks is 100% contained.
They add that though the fire is contained crews still have several days of mop up work ahead before “control objectives will be reached.”
The fire burned over 900 acres. It was burning 6 miles south of McGrath.
About Mountain Fire
Fire officials are also saying the About Mountain fire is 100% contained.
The fire grew to about 2,179 acres.
Dry Creek Fire
Meanwhile, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry crews successfully conducted a burn out that aimed to protect Native allotments along the Tanana River Friday from the advancing Dry Creek fire. The fire is now estimated at 26,000 acres.
Munson Creek Fire
Plus fire officials say the Munson Creek Fire burning just south of Chena Hot Springs had grown to an estimated 300 acres as of Friday morning.
“The Division of Forestry is actively monitoring the blaze but not currently taking any direct suppression action,” the division wrote in an online update.
The fire was initially reported on June 18.
June 25 - 2 p.m.
Dry Creek fire encroaches Native allotment, confirmed largest fire this season
The Bureau of Land Management said the Dry Creek fire has grown exponentially covering 18,000 acres as of Friday, which has led fire managers to plan out additional protections against the fire.
The fire was reported to be 12,000 acres on Thursday.
June 25 - 8:20 a.m.
Haystack fire is now 77% contained
Fire officials say the Haystack fire burning about 8 miles north of Fairbanks is about 77% contained.
The Alaska Division of Forestry says the fire is now about 924 acres.
The division adds that weather remains a concern when it comes to battling flare-ups or new starts.
“The hot, dry, and windy conditions warranted Red Flag warnings throughout the Interior yesterday,” the division wrote in an update Friday. “The weather tested the firelines that have been mopped up and they have successfully held.”
The fire was sparked by lightning last week. Currently, the Moose Creek Cabin in the White Mountains National Recreation Area is closed due to the proximity to the fire.
Munson Creek fire grows to about 150 acres
According to the Alaska Division of Forestry, the Munson Creek fire is now about 150 acres but crews are not viewing it as a threat.
“The fire is burning in a Limited protection area within Chena River State Recreation Area and no values are currently threatened,” the division wrote. “The Division of Forestry is actively monitoring the blaze but not currently taking suppression action.”
The fire is burning five miles south of Chena Hot Springs.
Fire officials add that given where the fire is and the terrain surrounding it that it would have to cross to reach Chena Hot Springs, “The fire does not currently pose a threat.”
The lightning-caused fire was initially reported on June 18 as a 2-acre fire approximately 50 miles northeast of Fairbanks.
June 24 - 8:21 a.m.
Fire crews suppress many of the two dozen new fires in Northwest Alaska
According to the Alaska Division of Forestry, fire crews were able to catch several northwestern fires before they could impact nearby Native allotments or structures.
“Because the majority are burning among surface vegetation – specifically tundra grass – the smokejumpers and aircraft were successful in quickly suppressing some of the fires,” wrote the division.
“We’re not seeing much fire growth,” said Jake Livingston, BLM Alaska Fire Service Galena Zone Fire Management Officer. “The majority of these fires got held up by rain from the thunderstorms.”
Noatak River fires
The division says smokejumpers will remain on the two high-priority fires that are burning near Native allotments and structures on the east side of the Noatak River just north of Kotzebue. They add crews are protecting a Native allotment from the Tutak Creek Fire burning west of Kivalina since June 20.
Fire crews are still working the Hugo Creek Fire and the Mulik Hills Fire. Smokejumpers are still assigned to these fires to make sure they are completely out.
Crews were able to put out the Little Noatak 3 and Little Noatak Slough 2 fires that were new.
Selawik area fires
Crews have the Niglaktak Lake fire in a “monitor status” because it is burning in tundra on a small island surrounded by water and wasn’t considered a concern because there were not sites of value on the island. Also, crews are keeping an eye on the Selawik River Fire was burning about 50 miles east of Selawik.
Seward Peninsula Fires
A number of fires are burning about 30 miles southeast of Buckland. Officials say the Ulukluk Creek, Buckland River Fire, the Masukatalik Creek Fire, Buckland River 2 Fire were not immediately threatening any valuable sites and did not generate a response.
Meanwhile, Fire officials say Fish River Fire and the Canyon Creek Fire both have two smokejumpers working to put them out. Crews are also working the American River fire that is burning about 26 miles northeast of Brevig Mission on the opposite side of the American River. This fire is reported to be about 3 acres. Crews are also keeping an eye on the Lava Fire that sparked Tuesday night. This is burning next to the Imuruk Volcanic Field in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. The fire was placed on monitor status.
Plus, on the Bureau of Land Management-managed land near the mouth of the Kiwalik River the Duck Creek Fire was burning. Officials say it was burning in a modified option area. The fire is now out.
June 23 - 10:20 p.m.
Crews reach 84% containment on About Mountain fire
Firefighters have managed to get the About Mountain fire burning 6 miles south of McGrath 84% contained, according to a release from the Alaska Division of Forestry.
The wildfire is estimated to be 2,135-acres, and has 73 personnel assigned to it. It’s burning along the Kuskokwim River.
The division reports there are still a few hard-to-reach areas of the fire that are harboring heat, which firefighters are addressing.
“Two smokejumpers are hiking and using portable packrafts to reach higher, more remote areas of the fire that can’t be reached by boat or helicopter,” the release states. “The packrafts, which weigh about 5 pounds and fit into a backpack, are being used to cross sloughs and beaver ponds to reach hot spots.”
A drone equipped with infrared imagery is on its way, the division wrote, to be used to help find hidden hot spots. Any heat detected by the drone will be addressed over this weekend and into next week, the division wrote.
June 23 - 1:31 p.m.
Haystack fire containment increased to 66%
The Alaska Division of Forestry reported Wednesday that the Haystack fire burning about 18 miles north of Fairbanks is now 66% contained.
The fire, which was caused by lightning, is more than 900 acres in size.
“Hotshot crews assigned will be focused more on the southern part of the fire’s edge moving towards their goal of full containment,” the division wrote in an online update. “They will start on both the east and west edges and work towards the middle to tie in and complete their mop up.”
The Moose Creek Cabin in the White Mountains National Recreation Area are both closed due to their proximity to the fire, the division reported. The Bureau of Land Management will allow reservations to resume when firefighting efforts in the area hae been reduced.
A temporary flight restriction is still in place over this fire and the area surrounding it.
According to the division, Alaska’s preparedness level when it comes to the wildfire season is now at Level 3. The levels range from one (the lowest) to five (the highest. The higher the preparedness level, the greater the need for incident management teams, suppression resources, fire crews and equipment like helicopters, the division wrote.
June 23 - 7:45 a.m.
Dozens of new fires caused by wave of lightning passing over Alaska
The approximately 3,823 lightning strikes that occurred Tuesday, throughout Alaska and neighboring territories, caused at least a dozen new wildfires from Galena to the Noatak River Valley, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
The bureau noted that some new fires received quick responses from smokejumpers and water-scooping airplanes, while others continue to burn.
“There will likely be more fire starts from this round of lightning in the upcoming days as they smolder in dry vegetation or ground layers until conditions dry out,” said the bureau through a press release. “BLM AFS personnel will fly the area looking for the new ignitions.”
Galena area fires
Lightning strikes generated two small fires north of Bear Creek near Galena just before 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The bureau said eight smokejumpers and two water-scooping airplanes were deployed to split the workload.
The bureau said both fires were put out quickly, allowing crews to leave by 9 p.m. that day.
Noatak River Delta fires
Five new fires ignited near the mouth of the Noatak River and neighboring slough north of Kotzebue, according to a 10:30 p.m. update from the Galena Fire Management Zone Office.
One fire is “burning very close to Native allotments in the area,” while the other four fires are elsewhere in close proximity to one another.
12 smokejumpers were divided to fight the Hugo Creek fire and Mulik Hills fire, which are about a mile apart.
The Noatak River, Little Noatak and Little Noatak Slough fires were the newest fires reported in the area Tuesday evening.
Selawik area fires
People of Selawik reported a “very visible” fire on a peninsula surrounded by water, located north of the Niglaktak Lake. Due to the area’s terrain and no immediate threats, the bureau placed that fire on monitor status.
The estimated 2.5-acre Selawik River fire located 50 miles east of the village is burning in a limited management option area. The bureau’s reconnaissance team that flew by said nothing was at risk.
Buckland area fires
Tuesday’s lighting strikes caused three fires southeast of Buckland, however, none of them are immediately threatening any nearby structures.
As of Tuesday evening, no crews have been sent to respond yet.
The Canyon Creek fire is about six miles southeast of Buckland. The Buckland River fire is about 30 miles southeast of the village, and the Masukatalik Creek fire is about 27 miles away.
June 22 - 8:23 p.m.
Communities could be impacted by smoke from two large wildfires in Northwest Arctic Borough
Two lightning-caused wildfires burning in the Northwest Arctic Borough stand to impact several communities through the smoke they’re producing, and one of them is now the largest wildfire currently burning in Alaska.
The Alaska Division of Forestry reported Tuesday that the Noatak River Fire, discovered this past Friday, is burning 120 miles northeast of Kotzebue in the Noatak National Preserve. It’s estimated to be 11,000 acres.
Another blaze, the Tutak Creek fire, is estimated to be 2,000 acres and started on Sunday. It’s about 24 miles east of Kivalina and 70 miles north of Kotzebue, according to the division, and is burning in wetlands.
Several communities south of the two wildfires stand to be impacted by smoke. According to the division, the National Weather Services has issued a red flag warning for the Kobuk and Noatak River valleys due to thunderstorms and lightning which could potentially trigger new fires.
“Outflows from thunder cells could kick up fire activity on these two existing large fires,” the release states.
The division wrote that winds on Wednesday could blow smoke from the fires into the communities of Noatak, Ambler, Kiana, Kotzebue, Ambler and Kobuk.
Both wildfires are in what’s called a limited management option. According to the division, that means that as long as neither fire is threatening structures or sites, the division monitors them and does not actively fight them. However, winds pushed the Tutak Creek fire close enough to an Alaska Native land allotment on Tuesday, which prompted a response. The division has sent smokejumpers to project the allotment.
Fire managers with the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service will continue to monitor both fires, according to the division, and will “send regular flights along the Kobuk and Noatak River corridors to detect new fires from thunderstorms and lightning forecasted in the upcoming days.”
June 22 - 8:45 a.m.
Haystack fire almost reaches 50% contained, replacement crew arrives soon
The Alaska Division of Forestry reported Tuesday morning that the more than 925-acre Haystack fire within 20 miles of Fairbanks has reached 48% containment, and is expecting reinforcements from the Lower 48 to provide rest for its crews.
Fire containment had been recorded at 30% by fire crews on Monday. Following its progress, the division awaits the arrival of the Snake River Valley fire crew from Oregon as the White Mountain crew heads home to rest in Fairbanks.
Crews are still struggling to completely close the fire line due to bulldozers being ineffective for some of the area’s steep terrain, according to the division.
The division said on-duty crews will search for hotspots within the fire and monitor for lightning holdover fires throughout Tuesday. A holdover fire, or sleeper fire, can smolder below the surface of the ground for a substantial amount of time until temperatures warm, vegetation dries, and winds breathe life into the dormant fire.
Tuesday’s weather is expected to be warmer, dryer than previous days, which could result in hot spots and holdover fires generating more visible smoke, according to the division.
The Moose Creek Cabin in the White Mountains National Recreation Area is closed due to its close proximity to the fire.
June 21 - 10:16 p.m.
Crews reach 60% containment on About Mountain fire, begin wrapping up fire near Central
Firefighters with the Alaska Division of Forestry and from the Lower 48 continue to make progress on several large wildfires across the state, so much so that the division is wrapping up work on a fire burning in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area.
Little Albert Creek fire
The division announced Monday that it was demobilizing one of the crews from the Little Albert Creek fire, which has been burning about 5 miles from the community of Central. The roughly 530-acre fire is now 50% contained, the division reported in a release.
A 20-person team, the Snake River Valley Type 2 Initial Attack crew, is leaving the fire while the Chena Hotshots from the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service remains on site to make sure the fire is completely out. The division anticipates the Chena Hotshots will be able to leave the Little Albert Creek fire as well by Tuesday night.
“The area did receive wetting rains overnight Sunday to help make sure the burned areas don’t hold any remaining heat,” the release states.
About Mountain fire
Meanwhile, firefighters have achieved 60% containment on the About Mountain wildfire burning along the Kuskokwim River 6 miles south of McGrath on Monday, the division reported. Crews have benefited from cooler weather, the division wrote in a release.
The About Mountain fire, believed to have been caused by an abandoned campfire, is estimated to be more than 2,100 acres in size. Fire managers reported no new growth on Monday.
Natural barriers, like the Kuskokwim River to the east and an old burn scar from a previous fire, are keeping the wildfire from moving to closely to McGrath. There are 94 personnel assigned to it.
“Crews are spread out working to secure the entire perimeter of the fire as they work for 100 percent containment,” the division wrote. “Structures in Cranberry Ridge Subdivision 3 miles north of the fire have been prepped as a long-term contingency plan.”
Additionally, one Alaska Native land allotment is about 3 miles south of the About Mountain fire, and the division has enacted a contingency plan to protect it.
“Crews are using a combination of helicopters and boats to ferry supplies to the fire from the McGrath Forestry station,” according to the division.
June 21 - 2:23 p.m.
Crews continue to make progress on Haystack fire, aided by rain
As firefighters continue to fight the roughly 900-acre Haystack fire about 18 miles from Fairbanks, fire managers will hold a meeting for the community most likely to be affected by the blaze.
The haystack fire remains about 30% contained as of Monday morning, according to a press release from the Alaska Division of Forestry. The lightning-caused fire has been burning north of Fairbanks near the Haystack subdivision since June 14.
The division wrote Monday that about a half inch of rain fell on the wildfire recently, reducing the chance that fire activity will increase. Fire managers will hold a public meeting for the community on Tuesday to help inform them about the fire and ongoing plans for fighting it.
Crew members have completed another 2 miles of saw lines, along with laying hose, on the east side of the fire, according to the division. Firefighters are still finding hot spots up to a foot deep and are cooling them.
“Engines remain stationed in the Haystack Subdivision to evaluate wildfire risks to homes and recommend actions to reduce hazards,” the division wrote.
A temporary flight restriction remains in place over this fire area.
June 20 - 11:40 a.m.
Firefighters make progress on multiple fires across the state
The Alaska Division of Forestry indicates containment on multiple wildfires across the state has increased as crews keep boots on the ground.
George Lake Fire
The division says containment on the George Lake Fire burning approximately 40 miles southeast of Delta Junction increased to 70% on Saturday.
“The fire is burning in black spruce near the northeast corner of George Lake on what is known locally as ‘Grandpa Cummings Knoll,’” wrote the division. “George Lake has several recreational cabins located around it but no structures are considered threatened.”
The fire, which was caused by lightning, is about six acres and is expected to be fully contained in the next two days.
About Mountain Fire
The About Mountain Fire, burning near McGrath, is now 44% contained.
The fire is about 2,135-acres and crews expect to have it down to 60% contained by the end of the day Sunday.
There is 92 personnel working to contain the fire, including the Division of Forestry’s Pioneer Peak Hotshots, 24 smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service and two Type 2 contract crews.
The Haystack Fire remains at 30% containment but crews are still making progress.
“Firefighters continue to construct and improve containment lines,” the division wrote in an update. “The Upper Tanana Crew #2 is making excellent progress on the north side of the fire, working on the black/burned side of the dozer line to locate and cool hot spots.”
Fire crews will continue to make progress throughout the day on all sides of the fire.
The fire is over 900 acres and was caused by lightning.
Washington Creek Fire
Containment is not known on the 2-acre Washington Creek Fire, but the division says crews were successful in corralling the small lightning-caused fire south of Tolovana Hot Spring Saturday.
“Smokejumpers will continue to work on the fire today to secure the perimeter and make sure the edges are cold. Then they’ll work their way in from the edges, putting out hot spots until the fire is completely extinguished.”
Crews anticipate completing the work in the next few days,
June 19 - 11 a.m.
Loon Lake Fire 100% contained, fire near Tolovana Hot Springs sparked
The fire, a lightning-caused blaze burning 10 miles from Sterling on the Kenai Peninsula, grew to over 100 acres.
Fire crews continued mopping up and gridding for hot spots deeper into the fire perimeter Friday.
Washington Creek Fire
According to the division, the Washington Creek Fire, a new wildfire less than a mile southwest of Tolovana Hot Springs, is said to have sparked Friday.
The fire is estimated at 2-5 acres, according to the division. Firefighters flying over the area reported the buildings at the nearby hot springs were not immediately threatened.
June 19 - 9:30 a.m.
Firefighters work to build handline on Haystack Fire, rugged terrain may be an obstacle
The Alaska Division of Forestry says crews are making slow but good progress constructing and improving containment line around the Haystack Fire. Burning 18 miles north of Fairbanks near a subdivision, the lightning-caused fire was 30% contained as of Friday, the division reported. The fire is nearly 900 acres.
“Crews are continuing to lay hose lines and install pumps to mop-up hot spots on the perimeter to increase the width of the containment line,” wrote the division in a Saturday update.
A potential challenge in the path of crews Friday as they work on the line is the east side of the fire where eight to ten miles of hand line will have to be constructed on steep and rugged terrain.
The division says even though there is heavy equipment being used, two Type 1 crews as well as three Type 2 initial attack crews and a Type 2 hand crew, supported by two helicopters, are being called in.
Fire officials are also keeping a close eye on the weather.
“Thunderstorms are again forecast for today,” the division wrote. “Although the moisture is expected to moderate fire behavior and decrease ignition potential, the accompanying lightning strikes can smolder in the forest floor for days.”
Over 200 firefighters are on this fire.
June 18 - 9:57 p.m.
Crews battle new fire in Interior Alaska, fires near Tanana River merge
As crews with the Alaska Division of Forestry and from the Lower 48 continue to work to mitigate several large wildfires across the state, a new one has cropped up and two separate fires burning near each other have merged into one.
For more information on all major fires burning across Alaska, visit akfireinfo.com.
Little Albert Creek fire
The Little Albert Creek fire is burning about 5 miles from Central, a census designated community in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area. It began on Wednesday, started by lighting, according to the division.
By Thursday, it had grown to 350 acres and had more than 40 personnel assigned to fight it.
“The combination of moderated weather, marshy terrain and work from smokejumpers and water-dropping aircraft Thursday helped subdue the Little Albert Creek Fire,” the division wrote in a release.
The east side of the fire slowed down when it hit a riparian environment, but the fire’s west side remains active and is burning just 2 miles from the Steese Highway, according to the division.
The Little Albert Creek fire is burning north of a mining operation that’s on the opposite side of Crooked Creek, the division wrote.
Tanana River fires
Two fires burning near the Tanana River, south of Manley Hot Springs — the Dry Creek fire and the Zitziana River fire — have officially merged and become one, according to the division.
Together, they have burned more than 7,000 acres, the division reported. The larger fire is now being considered the Dry Creek fire.
A Type 2 Initial Attack Fire Crew from Oregon was set to arrive at the fire Friday “to help protect on the cabin along the Zitziana River to the north of the fire area and Native allotments on the south side of the Tanana River,” the division wrote.
“Building fire breaks and burning out around the allotments and cabin will create a protective buffer from the fire,” the release from the division states.
June 18 - 9:40 p.m.
Rain helps subdue fire near McGrath
Firefighting crews have finished work to protect cabins near the About Mountain fire, buring 6 miles south of McGrath, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry. The fire, which started Monday, has grown to 2,066 acres and is burning along the Kuskokwim River.
There are natural barriers helping to keep the fire from moving too close to McGrath, like the Kuskokwim River and a burn scar from a previous fire, but the division wrote that rain on Thursday also lended a helping hand.
The About Mountain fire was about 2% contained by Friday morning, according to a release from the division.
There were 92 personnel assigned to this fire as of Friday, but more crews were on their way. The About Mountain fire is believed to have been caused by an abandoned campfire. It’s being investigated, the division wrote.
June 18 - 2:54 p.m.
Cool weather, rain helps moderate some wildfire activity
Firefighting crews have made progress on some of the wildfires burning throughout Alaska, with help from some rain and cooler temperatures.
Loon Lake fire
The Alaska Division of Forestry announced Friday that firefighters are expected to achieve 100% containment on the Loon Lake fire, a lightning-caused blaze burning 10 miles from Sterling on the Kenai Peninsula, at some point this weekend.
The fire is currently 80% contained, about 100 acres in size and has 59 crew members assigned to it, according to the division.
“Cooler, cloudy weather has moderated fire behavior, with no fire growth and very few areas of smoke showing,” the release states. “A fire break has been cut around the fire and crews have a hose line around the entire fire perimeter allowing for significant progress with mopping up.”
Bear activity and potential encounters are an ongoing concern in this area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, according to the division. To mitigate the chance of encounters, “the crews continue to focus on maintaining clean camps and backhauling trash every time a helicopter lands to deliver personnel or supplies,” the release states.
Cooler and more humid weather has also helped moderate fire activity near Fairbanks as crews continue to tackle the Haystack fire.
Burning 18 miles north of Fairbanks near a subdivision, the lightning-caused fire was 30% contained as of Friday, the division reported. The fire is nearly 900 acres in size and has more than 100 personnel assigned to fight it.
“Firefighters were able to cut a saw line around a 0.6 acre spot that crossed to the southside of Caribou Creek about a mile from the Haystack subdivision,” the division wrote.
While recent heavy rains in the Fairbanks area did not actually reach the area of the Haystack fire, the division wrote that light rain and greater humidity over the fire have helped moderate it.
The Moose Creek Cabin in the White Mountains National Recreation Area have both been closed due to their proximity to the fire. A temporary flight restriction is also in place over the Haystack fire.
June 17 - 9 p.m.
Crews make progress on Loon Lake fire; more help on the way to Tanana River area
Firefighters with the Alaska Division of Forestry are making significant strides against several wildfires burning around the state.
As of Thursday, an estimated 20,000 acres were being impacted statewide by fires, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, and there have been 38 new wildfires identified so far this week.
Loon Lake fire
Crews were able to get the Loon Lake fire burning about 10 miles from Sterling on the Kenai Peninsula to 70% containment by Thursday, according to a release from the Division of Forestry.
The Gannett Glacier Crew and the Pioneer Peak Hotshots have been working on the approximately 100-acre blaze, cutting a fire break around its perimeter, the release states. A hose line is also in place around the fire.
Rain fell over the fire area on Wednesday, the division reported, which assisted the efforts of firefighters. The are working on mopping up the Loon Lake fire and taking care of any hot spots.
A burn suspension is still in place for the Kenai Peninsula and a temporary flight restriction is still in place over the fire area.
University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks Type 2 hand crew was set to replace the Pioneer Peak crew, which is being re-routed to the About Mountain fire near McGrath.
About Mountain fire
The About Mountain fire, burning along the Kuskokwim River 6 miles south of McGrath, was reported on Monday.
According to a Wednesday situation report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, the About Mountain fire was last estimated to be more than 2,000 acres. It has natural barriers keeping it from reaching the McGrath community, such as an old burn scar from a previous fire and the Kuskokwim River. According to an updated release about the Loon Lake fire on Thursday, there are structures being threatened by the About Mountain fire.
Tanana River fires
Additional firefighters were sent to the Tanana River area Thursday, to continue fighting the Dry Creek fire and the Zitziana River fire.
According to an update from the division, five hand crews are on their way to Alaska from the Lower 48 to help with the fire season. One of those crews is being sent to the Dry Creek and Zitziana fires, which are burning near the Manley Hot Spring.
The Dry Creek fire has grown to more than 8,000 acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, and the Zitziana River fire is estimated to be 500 acres. The two fires are separated by the Zitziana River and are burning through tundra and black spruce.
Both caused by lightning, neither fire is immediately threatening any structures. However, there is a cabin about 2 miles north of the Zitziana fire and Alaska Native land allotments 3.5 mile miles east of that fire, along the Tanana River, according to the division.
“A handful of firefighters are already assessing the location of a cabin to the north of the fire near the Zitzana River and Native allotments along the Tanana River,” the release states. “They’ll use this information to formulate a plan to protect these sites using existing natural barriers such as sloughs to supplement firefighters’ hard work.”
The Dry Creek fire is already starting to bump up against the Zitziana River.
June 17 - 1:49 p.m.
Haystack fire reaches an estimated 800 acres, but containment at 40%
The group of firefighters and “small army” of bulldozer operators brought the now estimated 800-acre Haystack fire to 40% containment, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
The division highlighted that they accomplished that feat prior to the rainfall that passed overhead Thursday morning. The recent rainfall did help moderate the fire activity, but it should not snuff out the flames completely, according to the division.
Drier temperatures are also expected to return Friday, according to the division.
The fire was last reported to be 500 acres on Wednesday, but the division determined that the estimated sum increased by 300 acres.
On Wednesday, the division noted that a 1-acre spot fire ignited black spruce across Caribou Creek, which was being used as a control line. The firefighters managed to create a containment line around the spot fire by using heavy machinery and airdrops.
“We pounced on it and caught it,” Incident Commander Zane Brown with the Alaska Division of Forestry said.
A structure protection group is assessing work that needs to be done to protect the 92 homes within 1-2 miles of the fire, but the division said there is no immediate threat to any homes.
The Midnight Sun Hotshot crew, who were just fighting the Loon Lake fire, arrived Wednesday to help the ground attack. An additional one or two additional crew members will arrive Thursday from the Lower 48, the division said.
June 17 - 7:25 a.m.
Firefighters attack Haystack fire nearing subdivision
The Alaska Division of Forestry said the 500-acre Haystack fire located north of Fairbanks has a spot fire inching closer to the Haystack Subdivision, which was less than a mile away from the residential area at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
The spot fire was reported to have started at about 4:30 p.m. The division said a thunder cell moved in causing erratic, gusty winds, which allowed the fire to cross Caribou Creek.
The division noted that firefighters are building a control line around the spot fire, using a bulldozer and retardant drops from an air tanker. It added that water-scooping aircraft and helicopters have also dropped water.
June 17 - 6:49 a.m.
Loon Lake fire reaches 30% containment, no visible growth
The Loon Lake wildfire reached 30% containment and has seen no growth as of Wednesday morning, according to Torrey Short with the Division of Forestry office in Soldotna.
Ignited by lightning, the fire is burning in a remote area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge more than 10 miles from Sterling, and the division has said the community is not in danger.
Short said Wednesday that fire crews have completed 90% of the fire break surrounding the 102-acre fire and laying hose around the perimeter.
After securing most of the fireline, the division said they reassigned the Midnight Sun Hotshots, one of three crews fighting the blaze, to Fairbanks to assist with fires in the Interior. The two remaining crews were said to complete the fire break and hose line on Wednesday.
The division said a temporary flight restriction remains in place with a 3-mile “no fly” area from the center of the fire.
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