Driven by high winds, the Oregon Lakes Fire in the Delta Junction area expanded along its western perimeter Saturday night.
With increased burning and higher winds, the Bureau of Land Management's Alaska Fire Service has sent teams of firefighters to nearby communities to protect structures from another possible flare-up, according to a Sunday morning news release from the BLM.
The fire, which is listed at 17,465 acres today, began April 30 and is listed as human-caused. The cause remains under investigation.
The fire has not moved northward, the agency noted, but smoke from the southwest area of the fire mixed with sand blown up from the Delta River has formed clouds visible from Delta Junction. Due to high winds and poor visibility, transportation and observation flights have been canceled.
Fire crews have disbursed to several surrounding communities to protect cabins and homes on private land. Crews in Whitestone, South Bank and Richardson-Clearwater are assembling sprinkler kits at each home in hopes of mitigating any possible burning. The kits include sprinklers, hoses and fixtures to connect to a pump and water supply.
Crews are also working to create an inventory of any homes or structures in the areas and locate owners of cabins or homes to confirm permission for crews to work on private properties. According to the BLM, any owners of cabins or homes in the three communities listed should call 208-254-1130 to update fire crews.
According to BLM, fire crews have brushed out existing fire lines constructed during previous fires that surrounded Whitestone and Richardson-Clearwater. Now, crews are working to build additional fire line to protect the three communities.
Temporary flight restrictions remain in effect over the fire and over the Whitestone, South Bank and Richardson-Clearwater communities in an effort to keep private, commercial, military and unmanned aircraft from interfering with aerial transportation of crews and aerial fire suppression efforts.
With temperatures set to remain in the low 70s and winds between 15-30 mph from the south continuing throughout the day and possible 50 mph gusts tonight, Red Flag condition warnings are forecast to remain in effect until about 10:00 p.m. today.
Three lightning-caused fires near Tok are still under observation, according to Beth Ipsen, Alaska Fire Service spokeswoman.
The largest of three fires is the McArthur Creek Fire, which was reported Tuesday and was estimated at 3,000 acres as of Thursday. It is located approximately 2 miles east of the Canada border and 14 miles from the Alaska Highway.
“Smoke from the fire is visible from the Alaska Highway and the Division of Forestry has received multiple reports of the fire from passing motorists,” the report reads. “Smoke is not impacting highway traffic.”
The other two fires are burning north of the McArthur Creek Fire and are considerably smaller, according to the report.
The three fires are burning in limited protection areas, meaning they are only being monitored due to their remote locations, Ipsen said Sunday, adding there aren't any new developments on the Tok fires since Friday.
Ipsen added that burn suspensions are in effect in Tok, Salcha and Delta Junction today due to high winds and the Red Flag warning.
“Camp fires are still allowed but not advised,” she said.
Ipsen noted that human-caused fires are the biggest concern right now.
"We did have some lightning come through last week," Ipsen told the News-Miner Sunday. "But with this long weekend and folks out recreating, that's kind of the big factor right now. We're all for Alaskans having fun, but just be cognizant of some of the activities that may cause fires."
Ipsen emphasized the importance of ensuring your campfire is out before heading to your tent or RV for the night.
"Put water on it, stir it up, put more water on it, be sure to feel for any remaining heat," she said. "There haven't been many fires popping up, and we would rather that not change."
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.