Alaska: Funny River Fire becomes megafire

 (UPDATE at noon, MDT, May 29, 2014)

The Funny River Fire at Soldotna, Alaska has burned 192,831 acres and the Incident Management Team is calling it 46 percent contained.

Below is a report from the Team:

Cooler, damper weather moderated fire activity on Tuesday which allowed firefighters to switch from defense to offence for the first time since the Funny River Fire started nine days ago. Crews reinforced the containment lines on the west side of the fire in the Kasilof and Sterling Highway areas, and in the Funny River Road area. Progress was made with containment line on the north side of Torpedo Lake on the north side of the Kenai River. Overall fire containment is now 30 percent, with 713 firefighters working to keep the fire away from populated areas.

The evacuation order along the Funny River Road was cancelled yesterday and most residents returned to their homes. All remaining evacuation advisories have been lifted. The Lower Skilak Lake Campground remains closed until further notice.

Five structures were confirmed as lost to the fire. The owners were notified by the Kenai Peninsula Borough. These structures include one outbuilding (the main structure was saved), and four recreation cabins with limited access.

On Tuesday firefighters rescued five abandoned wolf pups on the fire. Check out the story and the photos HERE.

We posted some very interesting satellite photos of the fire in another article.

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(UPDATE at 6:28 p.m. MDT, May 27, 2014) An update from the Funny River Fire incident Managment team at about 6 p.m. MDT:

Firefighters made excellent progress yesterday extending containment lines on the west side of the fire in the Kasilof and Sterling Highway areas. Crews also completed burnout operations along the northern perimeter (south of Funny River road) late in the day helping to secure areas that had burned over containment lines on Sunday. The fire grew to over 182,000 acres as winds continued to push the fire perimeter northeast towards the Skilak Lake Road and further east into the wildlife refuge area. Overall fire containment is now 30 percent.

 

The evacuation order along the Funny River road has been cancelled. Residents are allowed to return to their homes. This area remains under an evacuation advisory. The evacuation advisory along the Sterling Highway was also lifted. The Kenai Keys area remains under an evacuation advisory. The Lower Skilak Lake Campground remains closed until further notice.

**** (UPDATE at 10:35 a.m. MDT, May 27, 2014)

Funny River Fire, May 27, 2014

Funny River Fire, May 27, 2014 (ESRI). The black annotations were added by Wildfire Today.

On Monday the Type 2 Incident Management Team for the Funny River Fire at Soldotna, Alaska mentioned that the fire had crossed the Kenai River near Torpedo Lake. The map, above, that we found on the Team’s Facebook page (it is not on their InciWeb page) shows that the fire has become established east of the river. It is no longer just a spot fire. Monday night the Team said the fire had burned 176,069 acres and 670 personnel were assigned. There have been no serious injuries. It is becoming difficult to find current, official information about the fire. Sometimes it is placed on InciWeb, occasionally it can be found on the Alaska Wildland Fire Information site, and then there’s Facebook and ESRI. There is a report from a Twitter user that it is raining in the fire area:

**** (UPDATE at 8:45 p.m. MDT, May 26, 2014)

Map of Funny RiverFire May 26, 2014

Map of Funny RiverFire. The white line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. May 23. The perimeter at 4 a.m. May 26 is shown in red.

The incident management team running the Funny River Fire at Soldotna, Alaska reported the fire has burned 158,585 acres and it is 30 percent contained. It crossed the Kenai River Sunday afternoon near Torpedo Lake just east of the Kenai Keys. Several spot fires within the Keys did minor damage but were quickly put out. The team is working to confirm if any structures were lost. The wind driven fire is continuing to spread northeast towards the Skilak Lake Road. The Lower Skilak Lake Campground was evacuated and is closed until further notice. The Kenai Keys area is under an evacuation advisory. The weather forecast is calling for rain early Tuesday. Cooler and wet weather will help slow fire activity.

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Alaska: fire near Soldotna threatens village

An excerpt from the Anchorage Daily News:

Crews battling wind-driven wildfires that grew fast overnight are trying to protect the village of Tyonek on the northwest side of Cook Inlet and get ahead of a blaze that has burned more than 3,000 acres near Soldotna.

The Tyonek fire, which has prompted dozens of residents to evacuate, jumped the Chuitna River and started burning near the airstrip and a new subdivision in the village of about 150 residents, state forestry and Native corporation officials said Tuesday morning. The fire had burned 450 acres as of noon Tuesday, state Division of Forestry officials say.

 

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Red Flag Warnings, May 14, 2014

wildfire Red Flag Warnings -- May 14, 2014

Warnings for elevated wildfire danger have been issued by the National Weather Service for areas in southern California, Arizona, and Alaska.

In southern California forecasters expect northeast to east winds to be stronger than yesterday, with gusts above 65 mph. Daytime temperatures will top out in the 90s to lower 100s, with humidity values ranging between 3 and 8 percent. The weather on Thursday will also be hot, dry, and windy.

Red Flag Warning, SoCal 5-14-2014

The Red Flag Warning map was current as of 11 a.m. MDT on Wednesday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts. For the most current data, visit this NWS site.

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Wildfire prevention at the Iditarod

Iditarod map

Map of the historic Iditarod Trail, which inspired the sled dog race. The race now takes a modified route, and begins at Anchorage instead of Seward. Credit: BLM.

There is a report that a lack of snow in some areas on the course of the Iditarod has organizers of the 1,000-mile long sled dog race concerned about wildfire prevention. We searched and found hundreds of photos of this year’s race which began March 2, but they all had snow. However, I suspect that 99 percent of the route is not easily accessible by photographers.

Below is an excerpt from a Facebook post by Husky Homestead Tours.

…Snowless stretches of trail are wreaking havoc on sleds…

Hydration is a key word right now. With the dry trail conditions dogs are not able to dip snow as they would during a run in “winter”. (By the way – we’re still looking for you folks in the Lower 48 to send us our weather back!) Mushers may not find much snow, if any, along the trail to melt for their dogs, either. Many will carry some, stop along the trail wherever there is open water and let the dogs lap some up, as well as offer plain water to the dogs as soon as they arrive in a checkpoint. Mushers know that keeping a team hydrated (and themselves!) is key.

While on the “dry trail conditions” subject… this years’ race has a fire danger! Dry conditions in Rohn caused Race Marshall Mark Nordman to state that monetary fines would be given to any musher with an unattended fire. How’s that for news we haven’t heard of before??

 

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Keith

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Record-setting heat in Alaska brings a fire back to life

Mississippi Fire

File photo of Mississippi Fire, unknown date. InciWeb photo.

If someone told you about a fire named “Mississippi” that was near Delta, would you guess it was in Mississippi? If so, you’d be wrong.

The Mississippi Fire started May 30 ten miles west of Delta, Alaska. The last time it was updated on InciWeb was August 25 when the Type 1 Incident Management Team turned it back over to the BLM – Alaska Fire Service. At that time it had burned 67,288 acres.

Normally by October firefighters in Alaska don’t have to worry about wildfires — they can’t spread very far under snow. But this year firefighters have to worry, at least a little. Temperatures in Delta Junction on Monday did not just set a new record, they blew it to smithereens — 19 degrees higher than the previous record.

Under those conditions, and combined with winds that gusted to 63 mph, the Mississippi fire found new life, crossing dozer lines and burning another 300 acres. A 10-member Alaska Fire Service crew responded to the fire Monday.

Alaska Fire Service Manager Kent Slaughter said the fire is 2.5 miles from Whitestone Farms but there is little threat it will spread to the community.

Last year in late November dry conditions and strong winds contributed to the rapid spread of a fire near Palmer, Alaska that burned 200 acres and required homes to be evacuated.

Dozers Delta River Mississippi Fire

Dozers crossing the Delta River at the Mississippi Fire, unknown date. InciWeb photo.

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Very impressive fire behavior in Alaska

Douglas Burts, who posted this video shot at the Tetlin Juction Fire August 16, 2013, called it Alaska Firenado. While I’m not sure that there is an official definition of the term, there is definitely rotation in this smoke column, and it appears to be more than just horizontal roll vortices. Whatever we call it, this fire behavior is very impressive.

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