Wildfires above the Arctic Circle in Greenland and Alaska

Alaska Garnet Creek Fire
The Garnet Creek Fire (#576) as seen from the air on Monday, July 15, 2019, was burning about 12 miles southwest of Rampart, Alaska. The fire was started by lightning. Alaska Fire Service.


Wildfire activity is moving north. Of the 26 new fires reported over the past two days in Alaska, ten were above the Arctic Circle. Isolated thunderstorms are expected in the central and eastern interior today, Tuesday, with high temperatures reaching the low 80s in the Yukon Flats area.

Fifteen new fires were reported across Alaska Monday. Twenty-three fires are actively burning in the Tanana Zone today, with a total of 30 fires reported this year.


In addition to the fires in Alaska, on July 10 a satellite detected heat signatures in Greenland that were consistent with those seen at wildland fires. And another satellite photographed what appears to be smoke.

Wildfires in Greenland are rare but not unheard of. There were also fires there in 2015 and 2017.

Rain slows spread of 23,000-acre Shovel Creek fire northwest of Fairbanks

South Idaho Hotshots
South Idaho Hotshots on the Chatanika River assigned to the Shovel Creek Fire in Alaska. InciWeb. Click to enlarge.

The Shovel Creek Fire, started by lightning about three weeks ago, has spread to about 20 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. As of July 12 it had burned 23,734 acres and was described as “smoldering” due to recent rain.

The number of personnel assigned dropped yesterday by 118, to bring the total down to 621. That number includes 13 crews, 18 engines, and 7 helicopters. So far $17.8 million has been spent on suppressing the fire.

Crews continued to make progress Friday with mop-up operations on the western and southern fire lines, securing the fire’s edge near Murphy Dome and along portions of the scar from the 2009 Hardluck Fire. Saturday, firefighters will continue mop-up along Old Murphy Dome road and the ridge line north of Perfect Perch to the Chatanika River.

During this break in fire behavior due to the weather, crews have taken the opportunity to scout for fire line opportunities along the Chatanika River north of the fire. As work to secure the northern edge continues, firefighters have kept hose lays, sprinklers, and other equipment in place around the structures along the Chatanika River. Aerial resources will continue to be available to cool hotspots near fire lines, as smoke and fog conditions allow.

Map Shovel Creek Fire July 12, 2019
Map of the Shovel Creek Fire July 12, 2019.

The rain in the area has cleared some of the smoke. With fire activity north and east of Fairbanks, forecasting air quality continues to be a challenge. Fairbanks Memorial Hospital created a 24-hour smoke respite center in the Chandler Room at 1650 Cowles Street, Fairbanks, AK 99701.

Firefighters make progress on the 100,000-acre Swan Lake Fire

The fire is in Alaska south of Anchorage

Firefighters are making progress on the 100,000-acre Swan Lake Fire 50 air miles south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula.

One of their key objectives is now complete — to cut off the southwest side from the Sterling Highway to the muskeg wetland areas on the south and west side of the fire. This is significant because it should keep the fire from moving further west toward Sterling.

Snow Creek Wildland Fire Module from, Bend, OR
Snow Creek Wildland Fire Module from, Bend, OR is assigned on the Swan Lake Fire in Alaska. Click to enlarge. InciWeb photo.

Ahead of the fire, firefighters continue to thin brush and understory vegetation along the Skyline Trail and Fuller Lakes Trail on the east side of the fire perimeter near Cooper Landing. The purpose of this effort is to reduce the chance of the fire spreading east along the highway corridor.

More Hotshot crews depart the lower 48 for Alaska fires

Burnout Hess Fire
Burnout on the Hess Fire in Alaska. InciWeb photo.

Five more hotshot crews are leaving today from Redding to assist with fires in Alaska: Elk Mountain, Modoc, Mad River, Eldorado and American River.

Alaska is in Preparedness Level 5, the maximum on the scale. The state has had more wildfire activity than usual for the last month or so, but record high temperatures last week beefed it up even more. The number of acres burned in the state varies greatly annually. In most years the total acreage burned is between 300,000 and 500,000. In 2013 it was 1.3 million and in 2015, 5.1 million acres burned. So far this year the total is 937,000 acres. The average over the last 10 years is 1.3 million.

Hotshot crews mobilizing Alaska
Hotshot crews mobilizing from Redding to Alaska. USFS photo.

The largest fire currently burning in the state is the 145,000-acre Hess Creek Fire 26 miles southeast of Steven’s Village. The blaze was very active Sunday, adding another 30,000 acres.

The second largest is the 96,000-acre Swan Lake Fire 50 air miles south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula. The activity on this fire has slowed in recent days.

Hotshot crews mobilizing Alaska
Hotshot crews mobilizing from Redding to Alaska. USFS photo.

Wildfire burns 25 acres in Anchorage, Alaska

M.L.K. Fire Anchorage
Smoke rises from a wildfire in East Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon, July 2, 2019. Photo by Jason Jordet/Alaska Division of Forestry.

(Originally published at 3:53 p.m. July 3, 2019 ADT)

Two 20-person crews and additional firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry are working Wednesday to contain the 25-acre M.L.K. Fire in East Anchorage, Alaska.

The fire which was reported at 4:28 p.m. on Tuesday, spread quickly in or near the Bureau of Land Management’s Campbell Tract but Wednesday afternoon it is holding at 25 acres. On Tuesday three air tankers and a helicopter dropped water and retardant helping to slow the spread of the fire. Smokejumpers worked into the early morning hours Wednesday looking for hotspots. Firefighters also placed a hose line around the fire to provide a water supply to extinguish any hot spots found.

M.L.K. Fire Anchorage
A squad of firefighters from Mat-Su Area Forestry walk into the M.L.K. Fire to begin mop up operations on Wednesday morning, July 3, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Bishop/Alaska Division of Forestry.

Tuesday afternoon the Baker River Interagency Hotshot Crew from Washington responded to the fire from the Swan Lake Fire on the Kenai Peninsula and the Gannett Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew was pulled from a fire near Lake Louise to assist with containment. A task force of four engines was also brought up from the Swan Lake Fire. A total of 66 personnel are assigned to the fire.

Today the two crews and the firefighters from the Mat-Su Area forestry office are focused on creating a chain saw line – cutting a swath through the vegetation around the perimeter of the fire to keep it from expanding. Fire managers expect to complete containment this evening.

M.L.K. Fire Anchorage
The MLK Fire burning in East Anchorage on Tuesday, July 2. BLM/AFS photo.

(Most of the text above is courtesy of the BLM/AFS)

There were no reports of injuries or burned structures. Soon after it started a few dozen people, including part of a mobile home park, were ordered to evacuate, but that was cancelled by 7 p.m.

The video below posted by the Alaska Division of Forestry, shows impressive flames that firefighters reported to be 60-feet long.

The blaze burned primarily in Black Spruce but slowed considerably as it moved into hardwoods.

M.L.K. Fire Anchorage
Firefighters from Mat-Su Area Forestry haul hose and other supplies down a trail to access and mop up the M.L.K. Fire in East Anchorage on Wednesday, July 3, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Bishop/Alaska Division of Forestry.


The article was revised to correctly indicate that the Baker River Hotshots’ home base is in Washington.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Steven. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Four crews complete their fire assignments in Alberta

hotshot fire crew Alberta
Snake River IHC. Alberta, June, 2019.

@AlbertaWildfire sent out a tweet today with four pictures saying goodby to four crews that had been assisting in the Province:

Today we say goodbye to our US firefighters that assisted us at the McMillan Complex in the Slave Lake Forest area. Thank you to the Prineville, Logan, Union and Snake River Hotshot Crews; we appreciate the support. Safe travels and all the best back home! #ABfire #ABwildfire

Click on the photos to see larger versions.

hotshot fire crew Alberta
Logan IHC. Alberta, June, 2019.

(Let us know which crew is which and we’ll add the crew names in captions. UPDATE — got them all identified. Thanks!)

hotshot fire crew Alberta
Union IHC. Alberta, June, 2019.
Prineville IHC Alberta
Prineville IHC. Alberta, June, 2019.

In addition to a number of U.S. firefighters in Alberta, at least 11 crews from the lower 48 states are assigned in Alaska according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center: Los Padres, Lewis and Clark, Chief Mountain, Golden Eagles, Crane Valley, Idaho Panhandle, Lakeview, Redmond, Vale, Wolf Creek, and Winema.