The Shovel Creek Fire, which has been burning on Murphy Dome for two weeks, is in the midst of a burn operation, with firefighters seeking to build a containment line.
On Friday, the burn crew moved along an established dozer line from the communications tower in the Martin neighborhood to the Murphy Creek drainage. They continued burning along Old Murphy Dome Road, moving west until they reached a secure stopping point. Aerial supervision went until just past midnight, while a night shift patrolled the perimeter of the fire.
The operation is set to continue in the area, with people holding the containment line, monitoring the main fire and mopping up the area already burned, according to Kale Casey with the Pacific Northwest Team 2 Type 1 Incident Management Team.
“There are people working around the clock. There are people working extra hours. There are people working the night,” Casey said.
The fire, which was started by lightning on June 21, is at 10,808 acres, with 753 personnel working on it. Two neighborhoods, Martin and Perfect Perch, have been evacuated. Several other neighborhoods are also under evacuation alerts. Residents are asked to be ready to go if conditions warrant a full evacuation.
An evacuation shelter has been set up at Randy Smith Middle School, with a temporary pet shelter on the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds.
The Alaska Division of Forestry’s Facebook page includes photos and provides updates on the burn operation and the status of the fire. For residents without internet access, Casey suggested they visit the library to view the videos.
“We are encouraging folks, if possible, to head to the public library and actually take some time,” Casey said.
Information is also posted on message boards around town.
“We have numerous boards at different places, like there’s one at Ken Kunkel (Community Center). There’s one at Ivory Jack’s, one business over,” he said.
A hotline has been established to answer questions about the fire at 907-347-6801.
Casey also said Fairbanks is likely to see more smoke in the coming days, but not necessarily from the Shovel Creek Fire. He cited numerous fires burning around the Interior, as other sources of smoke.
“All that smoke, at some point, is going to start showing up in Fairbanks,” he said.
Elsewhere in the Interior
• Firefighters are engaging the Boundary River Fire, which is burning near Tok, while continuing point protection for Native allotments in the area, as well as the village of Northway.
“That gained about a thousand acres yesterday. A lot of fires right now are getting more active with the hot temperatures and the drier weather,” said Tim Mowry, with the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Firefighters are focusing on structure protection in Northway, protecting the village with containment lines, and preparing in case the fire approaches the village.
• A new fire started in Gakona on Friday, near the University of Alaska Fairbanks High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program antenna site, or HAARP, but is smaller than initially reported.
While the fire was first estimated at 35-40 acres, it’s currently mapped at 17 acres, according to Mowry.
Firefighters in the area are working to lay down hose line around the fire and contain it, he said.
• In the Chena River State Recreation Area, the Nugget Creek Fire is still burning, now at 6,936 acres.
“It’s probably a little bigger because it did increase in activity yesterday on the western edge, I believe,” Mowry said.
The lightning-caused fire began on June 21. It’s being monitored from the road, as well as the air. As the fire is burning in a limited protection area, only structure protection around Nugget Creek public use cabin has been installed, although the fire was moving away from the cabin on Saturday.
“But it’s just sort of smoldering, backing and every now and then it will torch trees. Any of these fires are going to get a little more active with this weather we’re getting. We’re anticipating that,” Mowry said.
The recreation area is still open, although Granite Tors Trail and Mastodon Trail remain closed and dense smoke is reported in the area.
• Near Livengood, the Hess Creek Fire is at 104,218 acres. Firefighters are looking to use burnout operations to protect cabins and mining sites in the area, similar to what’s happening on Murphy Dome.
Burn operations in the area are anticipated to start around 6 p.m., but are dependent on wind, fire behavior and weather, according to Sierra Hellstrom, with the Bureau of Land Management.
Burnout operations may lead to increased smoke in the area, which could interfere with travel or recreational plans near Livengood. Travelers in the White Mountain National Recreation Area, east of the fire, are advised that smoke can complicate air pick up or aviation-related plans in the area.
• The lightning-caused Ninetyeight Creek Fire, burning near Salcha since June 26, is now 30% contained. The fire is being managed by 133 personnel.
The Foraker Fire, the first fire to start in Denali National Park and Preserve this year, is at 11,970 acres. The lightning-caused fire has been burning since June 26.
• In Two Rivers, the Caribou Creek Fire is still being mopped up. Gear no longer needed is being backhauled and used at other fires around the state.
“Fire activity has been pretty minimal, just mainly smoldering,” Mowry said, adding that occasionally there are pockets of fuel that catch and firefighters in the area address it.
The fire, now 80% contained, is moving to the control of a Type 4 organization on Monday.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal