Rainfall on Friday slowed several of the fires in Interior Alaska on Saturday, but lightning sparked other fires in southwest Alaska, including fires that are threatening cabins, historic sites and two gold mining sites, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
In the Interior, about an inch of rain fell on the 160,000-acre Hess Creek Fire, burning near Livengood. The rain dramatically reduced fire activity, although many areas are continuing to smolder, according to a news release from the Alaska Division of Forestry. Firefighters were able to continue to mop up areas where the fire jumped the Elliott Highway on Wednesday evening.
The rain halted growth on the Shovel Creek Fire near Murphy Dome northwest of Fairbanks. Crews are performing mop-up operations along a fire line on the western and southern edges of the fire and scouting areas for further protection near the Chatanika River if future conditions warrant.
The Kobe Fire also got some rain and evacuation alerts were reduced for two subdivisions and lifted for the community of Anderson. The fire started on Thursday and rapidly grew to 1,200 acres near Mile 275 Parks Highway. One outbuilding was destroyed, but no homes were lost.
The Nugget Creek Fire, burning in the Chena River State Recreation Area about 35 miles northeast of Fairbanks, grew to more than 16,000 acres. It has jumped the South Fork of the Chena River, but was burning into the scar from the 2013 Stuart Creek Fire. The fire is burning near the Chena River between Miles 35-37, but crews have kept it on the south side of the river and away from the Chena Hot Springs Road. The Nugget Creek public use cabin is closed, as is the Mastodon Trail and Granite Tors Trail. The river access at Mile 37 has been reopened.
To the south, the Rainbow 2 fire west of Delta Junction was encroaching on several cabins on the Richardson Clearwater River. The lightning-caused fire, which has been burning since June 29, was pushed by a storm cell with south winds on Thursday to within a quarter-mile of the nearest cabin. The cabins in that area were protected by pumps, hose lines and sprinklers earlier this summer when they were threatened by the Oregon Lakes Fire, and those protections remain in place.
In Southwest Alaska, lightning sparked dozens of new fires between Wednesday and Friday, although most of the 58 active fires were burning in remote areas. Four, however, are threatening cabins, commercial and historical infrastructure and are staffed by fire crews.
The Smith Creek Fire was started by lightning on July 12. It is burning in black spruce about 13 miles northwest of Crooked Creek, threatening multiple structures, including the Donlin Gold Mine. Non-essential mine personnel have been relocated and a 20-person crew is being mobilized to the area. The Hidden Creek Fire, also caused by lightning on July 9 is burning about 20 miles northwest of Nikolai near the Nixon Fork Gold Mine. Smokejumpers and firefighters are setting up pumps, hose lines and sprinklers to protect the mine infrastructure.
In the same region, three separate fires were started by lightning on July 10 within 3 miles of the village of Red Devil. A total of 35 firefighters are in the area to protect the village.