Though firefighters experienced a slight break in fire activity with recent rains, temperatures are expected to rise over the holiday weekend, increasing the fire activity that slowed over the past few days. Smoky conditions will likely increase, as well.
Lower smoke levels, due to recent rains, allowed fire officials in Alaska’s Interior to conduct aerial mapping, giving them more accurate estimates of fire sizes. The following is a list of progress on notable fires.
Hess Creek Fire
The Hess Creek Fire is 94,000 acres. According to Alaska Wildland Fire Information, cooler weather helped firefighters enter remote areas of the fire and protect structures.
The Nevada Incident Management Team is expanding the protection area for the fire, which moved into the northern part of the White Mountains National Recreation Area, in the headwaters of Victoria Creek. The Hess Creek Fire is moving toward Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River and will likely reach the river if current conditions continue. A sprinkler system has been set up at the Colorado Creek public use cabin in the White Mountains.
The report warns travelers in the area that smoke from the Hess Creek Fire and other nearby fires may interfere with air taxi travel and other aviation-related plans.
Nugget Creek Fire
The Nugget Creek Fire in the Chena River State Recreation Area remains at 6,900 acres. According the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Situation Report, or AICCSR, the fire was slowed by overnight rain, but continues to creep.
Nugget Creek Fire remains south of the Chena River. According to Tim Mowry, information officer with the Division of Forestry, the fire is not expected to cross the river, as winds have been low. Six personnel are fighting this fire.
Drivers in the area are warned to be aware of smoky conditions and watch for fire equipment around the 37.7 mile mark. The Nugget Creek public-use cabin, Mastodon Trail and Granite Tors Trail have been closed by Alaska State Parks. Roads that access the river at miles 37.7 and 39 also are closed.
Caribou Creek Fire
About 107 personnel are working to mop up the Caribou Creek Fire, located in a remote area about 8 miles north of 18 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road. The fire was lightning-caused and remains steady at 310 acres. It remains 70% contained. Deep-burning tundra continues to smolder in the area, and new resources from out-of-state are adjusting to Alaska conditions.
Mowry said residents in the area can expect helicopter activity, but that there are no new fires. The helicopters are moving crews and equipment. When possible, fire management teams are trying to free up equipment in this and other smaller fires to send to higher priority fires elsewhere.
Boundary River Fire
The 15,000-acre Boundary River Fire is about 9 miles from the village of Northway. A crew of 113 personnel is fighting the fire, which grew by more than 3,000 acres since since the last assessment. The lightning-caused fire started on June 23 and has spread to the north, east and south.
The fire received one-tenth of an inch of rain Monday night, slowing its spread. However, Mowry described the fire’s behavior as “intense,” making it difficult to fight. A structure protection plan is being formulated for Northway, but has not yet been enacted, as the fire is still too far away.
More accurate measurements of Ninetyeight Creek Fire, according to a release from Alaska Wildland Fire Information, put the blaze at 69 acres. There are 105 personnel assigned to the fire, including two newly-added hot shot crews from California. Containment remains at 5%. The Ninetyeight Creek Fire is located about 30 miles up the Salcha River, at about 18 miles northeast of Harding Lake. The Gila Las Cruces Type 3 Incident Management Team took command of this fire Monday.
The Foraker Fire is now 10,636 acres, growing by more than 3,000 acres since the last report. The fire, located in Denali National Park 22 miles southeast of Kantishna, was lightning-caused and is being worked by five personnel, who are conducting site preparation. The Foraker Fire is in a low-population limited suppression area, meaning it's being allowed to burn largely unabated, allowing it to act in a naturally ecological role, according to Beth Ipson, spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service.
There are 115 fires burning across Alaska. There have been a total of 363 fires this year, burning 592,930 acres.
There were two human-caused fires started Tuesday, but both have been put out already.
Contact Cheryl at 459-7572. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMCity.