Alaska’s first wildfire of 2016

The first wildfire in Alaska this year occurred Monday south of Delta Junction.

Alaska fire Delta Junction
Tim Holoday of the Delta Wind took this photo of the fire south of Delta Junction on February 22, 2016.

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.

Alaska wildfire destroys homes in village on Kodiak Island

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.

Acres burned in Alaska and Canada far ahead of average

Big Beaver Creek Fire
The Alaska Highway was closed to all traffic due to aggressive fire behavior observed on the Big Beaver Creek Fire in British Columbia Wednesday afternoon. The highway is closed between 386 km (Mile 250) and 418 km (Mile 260). British Columbia Wildfire Service photo.

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.

Canada weeks area burned through July 1, 2015
Canada area burned on a weekly basis through July 1, 2015.

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:

  • United States: 30,017 fires, 3,821,726 acres
  • Alaska: 650 fires, 3,208,107 acres
  • Canada: 4,672 fires, 6,546,562 acres
Canada fires, July 8, 2015
Canada fires, July 8, 2015
Alaska Fires July 8, 2015
Alaska Fires July 8, 2015

1.7 million acres burning in Alaska wildfires

Jumper arriving at Kobe Fire
Smokejumper arriving at the Kobe Fire, six miles NE of Mile Post 275 on the Parks Highway in Alaska. Photo by Zoey Taylor.

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.

Alaska top 10 fires
These are the top 10 fires, by size, currently reported by InciWeb in Alaska.

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.

Map of Alaska Fires June 29, 2015
Map of Alaska Fires, at 3:56 p.m. MT, June 29, 2015.

 

Whitefish Fire
Whitefish Fire, 8 miles south of Kalskag, June 17, 2015.

Firefighters in Alaska withdraw from Card Street Fire

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.

Card Street Fire

The InciWeb site describes the photo above as “Initial attack near homes”, so it may have been taken on June 15 also.

Alaska — 46,000 lightning strikes and many fires

(UPDATED at 12:22 p.m. MT, June 24, 2015)

Below is a list of fires in Alaska that are currently reported on InciWeb, sorted by size:

List of Alaska fires 6-24-2015

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(Originally published at 9:09 p.m. MT, June 23, 2015)

Alaska Lightning
From Alaska Climate Info: This map shows the number of lightnings strikes in Alaska and western Canada since Saturday. The grand total was over 46,000 strikes. An average season has about 110,000 strikes. On Sunday, the Alaska Division of Forestry said that the 14,000+ lightning strikes was an all-time record (1986-present). On Monday an equal amount of strikes were recorded.
Note: Data can be found here:

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.

Alaska Fires, June 23, 2015
From Alaska Climate Info: Reader Tracy asked if there was a satellite image showing the smoke across Alaska. This image was captured yesterday by the Soumi-NPP (SNPP) satellite. The smoke in Interior Alaska stands out as a milky white. The bright white areas are thunderstorms and other high clouds. Active fires are shown as yellow dots.

In the image below, I believe each tag is a wildfire.

And from the National Park Service, more information about lightning caused fires in Alaska:

Denali fires
From the National Park Service: “Following a lightning storm… five wildfires are now burning in remote locations in Denali National Park and Preserve. None of the wildfires are threatening park structures or sensitive resources. Due to the remote locations, fire managers have opted to monitor these fires. http://bit.ly/1TMJ0JA