Wildfires 7.15.19

Air quality has improved this week, thanks in part to weekend rainfall.

“The rain is sort of like nature’s scrub brush,” said Tim Mowry, spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Mowry added that the rain helped brush some of the smoke out of the air as well as calm fires.

“If it stays warm and dry, then we could start seeing smoke again, but at this point, I don’t think the fires around Fairbanks are putting up that much smoke,” he said.

A smoke respite room is set up at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for those in need of it.

Crews working on the Shovel Creek Fire were able to remove structure protection equipment from the Martin and Perfect Perch neighborhoods, the only neighborhoods remaining in an evacuation zone. Martin and Perfect Perch both sit at the lowest level of evacuation notice, Level 1: Ready.

The Chatanika River Corridor and the Drouin, Hardluck, Moose Mountain, Coyote Jones, Hattie Creek, Lincoln Creek, Murphy and Vancouver neighborhoods are no longer under any evacuation notice.

As containment continues, the structural equipment is being redistributed to other active fires.

“It’s been a process of two or three days,” said Kale Casey, with the Pacific Northwest Team 2 Type 1 Incident Management Team.

Some equipment remains in Chatanika east and west, according to Casey. Meanwhile, the fire is still being mopped up in several areas.

“Mop up is great. It’s just slow because the tundra’s so darn dry, but we’re 40 percent contained,” he said, adding that rainfall has helped moderate the flames.

Command of the fire is going to be transferred from the Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team to Rocky Mountain Team 6 tonight.

The Hess Creek Fire, 170,293 acres, was observed smoldering and creeping along its southern perimeter over the weekend.

Reduced smoke allowed personnel to fly the perimeter of the fire on Saturday, when the fire burned through black spruce in some areas. Thunderstorms and the expectation of lightning, as well as gusts of wind, has firefighters anticipating a possible increase in fire activity.

Minimal activity has been reported on the Nugget Creek Fire, which has been burning in the Chena River State Recreation Area since June 21. The lightning-caused fire is currently mapped at 15,963 acres.

“It hasn’t posed a threat to crossing the river or anything for several days because it hasn’t been moving in that direction,” Mowry said.

Instead, the blaze has been moving south, according to Mowry. Mostly, the fire has been creeping and smoldering.

“Every now and then it will find some patches of unburned fuel and put up some smoke that you can see from the road, but it’s well within the perimeter of the fire,” Mowry said.

Rainfall over the last few days has slowed the fire growth, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.

The Granite Tors Trail remains closed, as does the Nugget Creek Cabin, which is intact despite fire burning up to one side of it.

New fires

Some new fires cropped up over the weekend, including the Goldstream Creek Fire, out in Goldstream. This half-acre fire, burning about 30 miles west of Fairbanks, has a yet-to-be-determined cause.

“They did deploy some smokejumpers on that fire,” Mowry said.

The fire service called in a helicopter, as well as a hotshot crew working on the nearby Kobe Fire, in order to build a containment line around the blaze.

The fire was called contained and controlled by Monday morning after being reported Sunday night, according to Mowry.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal