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.