It is barely mid-summer and wildfire activity in Alaska and western Canada has been much higher than average for this time of the year. As of July 8, the number of acres burned in Alaska is the second highest ever recorded for an entire year — 2004 holds the present record, but on a year to date basis, the state now is ahead of the same date in 2004 for acres burned.
The area blackened in Canada already exceeds the annual 10-year average for an entire year. The government has activated about 1,000 military personnel to help fight wildfires in Saskatchewan. Firefighters from eastern Canada have been mobilized to assist in the western provinces, and one BAe-146 air tanker from Missoula, Montana is also lending a hand.
Alaska is also receiving help from firefighters in the lower 48 states. For example on Tuesday five 20-person crews were dispatched from California to Alaska, while snow flurries have been occurring for the past several days on the Inyo National Forest in California. Other Forests in the state received rain on Wednesday.
Here are some wildfire numbers, current on July 8, 2015:
There are 285 active fires burning in Alaska that have charred 1.7 million acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. Of those 285 fires, 41 are staffed and the other 244 are being monitored.
The National Interagency Coordination Center reports that the firefighting resources assigned to fires in Alaska include: 106 hand crews, 33 engines, and 29 helicopters.
A fun fact — a Bureau of Land Management Type 3 helicopter (H-173BH) recently completed a four-day trip to an assignment in Alaska. It took off from Rifle, Colorado on June 23 and arrived in Fairbanks June 26. The BLM sent other Type 3 helicopters, one each, from Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Two Forest Service Type 2 helicopters were also recently dispatched from the lower 48 states. In addition, a Type 1 CWN helicopter, Croman 701, an S-61, was also sent to Alaska.
Firefighters working on the Card Street fire 54 air miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska on June 15 had to make a strategic withdrawal when a crown fire encroached on their position, as you can see in this video. Since the fire started on June 15 it has burned over 7,000 acres.
The InciWeb site describes the photo above as “Initial attack near homes”, so it may have been taken on June 15 also.
Below is a list of fires in Alaska that are currently reported on InciWeb, sorted by size:
(Originally published at 9:09 p.m. MT, June 23, 2015)
A Facebook page called Alaska Climate Info has some amazing, even shocking, images of 46,000 lightning strikes in the state between Saturday and Tuesday morning, and a map showing dozens of fires that are larger than 5 acres each.
In the image below, I believe each tag is a wildfire.
This map from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center helps put Alaska’s wildland fire situation in perspective. pic.twitter.com/gQx8g2wkNs
More evacuations were ordered on Tuesday for the Card Street Fire near Sterling, Alaska 54 air miles southwest of Anchorage. Twice during the day residents were asked to leave areas threatened by the fire, with the Kenai Keys subdivision being affected late in the day as the 2,000-acre fire continued to burn aggressively since it started about 2 p.m. on Monday.
Most of the fire activity Tuesday was on the east side of the fire where it burned into the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Sprinklers have been set up around an old U.S. Forest Service guard station on Skilak Loop Road.
Air tankers dropped over 30 loads of fire retardant to protect structures dotted throughout the area as the wildfire quickly burned south towards the Kenai River. At least five structures were destroyed in the initial phase of the fire despite efforts by Alaska Division of Forestry firefighters.
Kenai forestry responded to the area with five engines and a helicopter while three local fire departments also responded to assist with structure protection. Evacuations were ordered for Fueding Lane, Aspen Street and the Kenai Keyes subdivision. The fire grew quickly and spotted across the Kenai River, causing the areas of Dow Island and Salmon Run to also be evacuated.
Firefighters positioned themselves along Funny River Road on the south side of the Kenai River to chase spot fires. Smokejumpers worked critical spots, protecting structures along the Kenai River using a boat. A park ranger also patrolled the river in a boat watching for spot fires and protecting structures. Later in the evening, a wind shift moved the fire to the east, pushing it into wetlands, which was a huge assist for firefighters protecting structures.
(ORIGINALLY published at 10:04 a.m. MT, June 16, 2015)
The Card Street Fire is causing evacuations near Sterling, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula 54 air miles southwest of Anchorage. This new fire is in the same general area as the 2014 Funny River Fire that burned over 190,000 acres.
First reported Monday afternoon, by evening it had burned 640 acres and was threatening 200 homes. Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources said hundreds of homes have been evacuated and six structures have burned.
Much of Alaska is under a Red Flag Warning today for strong winds accompanying the passage of a front.
The map was current as of 7:53 a.m. MDT on Monday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site or this NWS site.