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Wildfires burning across northern Alaska

July 7th | Shady Grove Oliver Print this article   Email this article  

Of the 89 wildfires burning across Alaska right now, several are in the northern part of the state, either in the Arctic or near its southern boundary.

"The north and central Interior continues to be the most active for wildfires with four of the five staffed fires in Alaska falling within this part of the state," Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service personnel noted in a posted update on their wildland fire information site on July 1.

On June 30, BLM fire service personnel spotted a new fire within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Dorothy Creek Fire, as it's being called, had burned about 300 acres in a limited suppression area within the refuge.

Personnel first discovered the fire during a flight to Fort Yukon. They reported seeing it burning in brush and on tundra.

"Because it is not threatening any known sites of value, it was put in monitor status," BLM noted.

In the Arctic, there are several small, unstaffed fires that are currently under observation, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center's current fire information map.

The Omikmuktusuk Fire was discovered June 28 and had burned about 1,647 acres between the Omikmuktusuk and Ketik Rivers by July 4. The nearby Ketik River Fire had burned about 2,870 acres over the same period.

To the north, the Kowlak Fire, also spotted on June 28, had burned about 10 acres near the Meade River.

The Point Lay Fire had burned about 25 acres near the village by Tuesday.

South of the village of Kobuk, the Kihovilik Creek Fire had burned about 2,000 acres by the start of the week. Almost directly east of the same village, the Narvak Lake Fire, discovered June 27, burned more than a hundred acres.

The Fossil Fire has burned about 500 acres to date near the Colville River to the far northwest of Anaktuvuk Pass.

Along the northwestern edge of the Dalton Highway south of Prudhoe Bay, the Gilead fire burned nearly 300 acres of tundra.

One of the larger fires currently being monitored in the north is the Campbell River Fire, located about 77 miles northeast of Chalkyitsik, and straddling the U.S.-Canada border.

Chalkyitsik is northeast of Fort Yukon, near one of the southernmost tips of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

On Friday, the fire grew by about 2,000 acres during a very active day, BLM said. To date it's burned about 8,000 acres on the Alaska side of the border and about 60,000 acres total, based on satellite imagery of the fire.

Dozens of firefighters are working to protect both a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cabin and a large Native allotment in the path of the fire.

"The fire is burning through a mixture of tundra and black spruce — two potentially fast burning fuel types," BLM noted. "Winds out of the east will continue to push the fire toward the west and toward the allotment and cabin. Luckily, the fire still has a ways to go and will be slowed down at times along ridge lines and will need to bump around lakes and creeks along the way."

South of that fire is the Discovery Creek Fire, which is burning about 30 miles south of Fort Yukon in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

According to BLM, smokejumpers and firefighting crews were able to surround the entire fire by the weekend. At only seven acres, it's small in comparison to many of the others.

Just north of the Discovery Creek Fire is the Loper Creek Fire, which has burned more than a thousand acres of black spruce and tundra on BLM land southwest of Circle.

For that fire, firefighting personnel are focusing on protecting historical cabins that are in the vicinity.

Finally, in a nearby part of the Interior, crews are combatting the Seven Mile Fire burning within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. According to BLM, smokejumpers spent the weekend outfitting a public use cabin with fire protection. The cabin is located near the mouth of the Kandik River near its confluence with the Yukon River.

Nine additional smaller, unstaffed fires were noted in the area on AICC's fire map as of early this week.

"Clouds and rain [were] forecasted to roll through the area this weekend, but how much and whether it will negate some of the persistent dry conditions remains to be seen," BLM wrote. "A high pressure ridge will settle over most of Alaska on Tuesday and the northeastern corner will transition back into that perpetual drying trend. The northern Interior, specifically the Yukon Flats centered on the confluence of the Yukon, Porcupine and Chandler rivers, is known as a hot, dry spot in the summer. This year is no different."

More than 150,000 acres have burned across the state this year as a result of more than 250 wildfires. According to BLM, 165 of those were deemed to have been caused by humans, with fewer than a hundred others caused by lightning strikes.

"Eighteen fires have burned 24,732 acres in the Upper Yukon Zone alone," BLM stated.

The Upper Yukon covers more than 50 million acres from the Yukon River north across the Arctic to the coast, over to the Canadian border, and around the Dalton Highway.

Fire safety tips and more information on current fire conditions can be found at fire.ak.blm.gov.

Shady Grove Oliver can be reached at sgoarctic@gmail.com.

 

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