Smoke in Fairbanks will likely worsen because of wildfires cropping up in areas surrounding the city.
The Shovel Creek Fire north of Murphy Dome had grown to 908 acres as of Wednesday morning, while the Caribou Creek Fire in Two Rivers is being contained through firefighting efforts.
On the Shovel Creek Fire, crews have installed water pumps and hoses in the Chatanika River Corridor, where structures are most imminently threatened, according to Sarah Saarloos, spokeswoman for the Alaska Type 2 Incident Management Team. A force of 237 personnel is working to contain the lightning-caused fire, which began June 21.
“Firefighters have identified alternate containment lines to the east of the fire and (Wednesday) we will begin using two dozers to begin constructing those lines, opening up the existing fuel break,” Saarloos said.
Fire crews are still assessing structures to the north and west of the fire, according to Saarloos, as well as in five subdivisions in the surrounding area.
The Martin Subdivision north of Spinach Creek; the McCloud Subdivision north of Old Murphy Dome Road; the Murphy Subdivision south of Spinach Creek and northeast of Murphy Dome Road; Perfect Perch Drive off of Old Murphy Dome Road; the Lincoln Subdivision to the southwest of Murphy Dome Road and the Chatanika River Corridor all received a “Level 1: Ready” evacuation notice earlier this week. That notice remains in effect.
The notice does not yet mean people need to evacuate their homes; rather, it is to make residents aware that an evacuation may be called.
The Type 2 Incident Management Team has also been monitoring the Nugget Creek Fire. While the lightning-caused fire, east of Fairbanks in the Chena River State Recreation area, is still in monitor status, firefighters are now arriving in the area.
“We did not have that fire staffed and yesterday (Tuesday) we put 11 firefighters on Nugget Creek with the specific mission to begin assessing the structures in the area,” Saarloos said.
The Fairbanks community can prepare for more smoke as firefighting efforts continue.
“With this hot, dry weather, that’s going to breed more fire growth on these fires that are burning, and that’s going to produce more smoke,” said Tim Mowry, spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry.
The smoke coming into Fairbanks isn’t solely result of the Shovel Creek Fire, according to Mowry.
“It’s coming from multiple fires in different areas,” he said, citing fires burning from all directions around the city.
Depending on the direction the wind blows, Mowry said Fairbanks could be fairly smoky in the coming days.
In Two Rivers, the Caribou Creek Fire, another lightning caused fire, has had minimal activity, as crews worked Tuesday to contain the fire via direct attack. As of Wednesday morning, the fire, which started June 16, was 65 percent contained, according to Mowry.
As of Wednesday, 159 personnel are working on the the fire. Mowry said firefighting crews are now in “mop up mode” in the area surrounding the fire.
Since the fire burned deeply into the ground, down to 18 inches in some areas, firefighters have set up a perimeter in which to search for hot spots, digging up the area and spraying it down with water to get any surrounding heat out and mitigate the risk of flames catching again, according to Mowry.
While crews worked to calm the Caribou Creek Fire, the Boundary River Fire south of Tok grew with extraordinary speed Tuesday.
“It grew from about 10 acres to 1,700 acres in like an hour, but thankfully it has stayed at that 1,700 acres,” Mowry said.
Location has also helped mitigate the spread of the Boundary River Fire, which was also caused by lightning. It’s burning close to the 27,000-acre footprint where the Taxisalda Fire burned through last year.
“It has that on one side of it and it has the Nabesna River on the other side of it,” Mowry said.
With a saw line around two Alaska Native allotments and structure protection still in place from the Taxisalda Fire, Mowry said work that was done last year will make managing the Boundary River Fire easier.
North of Tok, the Eagle Fire is burning near Eagle Village. Two crews have been sent to aid in containing the fire, which is already 17 percent contained according to the Alaska Division of Forestry. Smokejumpers have already engaged in efforts to surpress the fire, which is currently 68 acres and was started by lightning on June 23.
In Yukon Flats, where numerous fires are burning, the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service is monitoring fire activity, as well as responding to several areas as conditions change. The 34 fires in the Upper Yukon Fire Management Zone are all lightning-caused fires.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510