The first wildfire in Alaska this year occurred Monday south of Delta Junction.
In a part of Alaska that would normally be covered with snow on February 22 a wildfire burned about two acres yesterday.
Live-fire training by military personnel in the Donnelly Training Area approximately 10 miles south of Delta Junction (map) started the blaze. Firefighters from the Fort Greely Fire Department responded to the fire that was burning in open tundra and driven by 25 mph winds, according to Branden Petersen, assistant fire manager for the Alaska Fire Service’s Military Zone.
The absence of snow in the area allowed the fire to spread, Mr. Petersen said.
The Alaska Fire Service, the fire suppression agency responsible for protecting military lands in Alaska, mobilized four personnel to respond to the fire but they were released after the Fort Greely firefighters responded.
A wind-driven wildfire ignited late Thursday night outside the Alaskan village of Chiniak, on Kodiak Island off the coast from Anchorage.
Village residents began evacuating around 11 p.m. on Thursday, and by early Friday morning local police were urged those remaining to leave as the fire spread, according to reports by the Alaska Dispatch News.
By Friday morning, crews estimated that the fire had burned 2,000 acres. A handful of homes and the local library were destroyed; reports did not say how many homes were burned.
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