Wet weather across Alaska has curbed the ignition of new fires this week, but dry pockets are still increasing the total number of blazes. In Lime Village, a tiny collection of homes located in Southwest, the state’s previously largest fire considerably diminished, and crews are pulling out equipment and their operations post from the area. Currently, fire managers are focusing on a fire burning near Fairbanks, whose local government declared an evacuation watch.
On Tuesday, a total of 109 fires burned statewide. And 423 fires have burned 911,909 acres so far this year. The fire season began abruptly when wildfires, human- and lightning-caused, sparked in the Interior. It didn’t take long before the three agencies that manage fires in Alaska were calling for Outside help. States often exchange firefighters, as they work long hours but have time limitations to follow. Perhaps Arizona will need to call on its neighbors to recover from the loss of 19 hotshots who died battling a massive blaze earlier this week.
The Arizona-based fire burned down more than 200 homes, New York Daily News reported. Fires across Alaska cause limited alarm, as the state is sparsely populated. Alaska firefighters protect certain areas with more fervor, however, as protection is required by law.
The Lime Hills fire has been burning since May 31 and has scorched about 200,000 acres. Numerous crews kept the fire away from Lime Village, as full protection was required due to the site’s cultural and historical significance. The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center lists the fire at zero percent contained, but up to an inch of rain in the past 24 hours secured the community enough, allowing firefighters to leave.
The village, whose population floats around 20 to 40 people, is on the south bank of Stony River, 50 miles from the Kuskokwim River Junction. It was one of the first Calista Corporation villages to get all of its land entitlements. The nearby limestone hills have numerous caves, and one of the caves contained bone arrow points dating back 10,000 years, some of the oldest documented human evidence in the region. Lime Village has a fair amount of infrastructure but lost its school in 2007 when the student body fell below ten, a problem affecting many Alaska villages.
Pockets of the large fire could last through the rains and spread as the summer goes on. Structure protection will remain in place upriver from Lime Village, while hotshot crews previously in the area have been dispatched to fires near Fairbanks.
The Stuart Creek fire grew from 10,000 acres to 45,000 acres over the last two days. Smokejumpers, retardant tankers and water-scooping aircraft are heavily engaging the growing blaze, located seven miles from Chena Hot Springs Road; the Fairbanks North Star Borough issued Tuesday an evacuation watch for residents living between Mileposts 14 and 30 of the road. An AICC spokesperson said no structures have been damaged by the fire.
Weather conditions are dreary for much of Alaska as the week moves forward, and lightning strikes continue to touch down around the Interior, but mostly on damp or soon-to-be damp ground.
Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com