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(Copper Center, AK) - A wildfire burning in America's largest national park has grown to more than 17,000 acres.
The Chisana River 2 Fire burning in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge was estimated at 17,179 acres as of late Thursday night and is still growing. The fire was started by lightning on June 9 and is burning about 20 miles south ofthe Alaska Highway and 25 miles from the Canadian border.
The fire is burning in a limited protection area and no suppression efforts taken thus far. Land managers have opted to let the fire take its natural course, as fire in the boreal forest of Alaska is an essential process that restores ecosystem health and helps to maintain species diversity.
Smoke from the fire is drifting into the community of Beaver Creek in the Yukon Territory and a smoke column is visible from the communities of Beaver Creek and Northway.Smoke is also visible from the Alaska Highway but traffic has not been affected by the fire.
Fire managers are monitoring the spread of the fire and expect the acreage total to increase given the hot, dry weather that is forecast in the area for the next week.
The closest community to the fire is Chisana, a small,remote settlement within the Park and Preserve approximately 25 miles south ofthe fire that includes a small number of hunting lodges, cabins and homes. There are about a dozen residents in the community. The fire is not threatening Chisana at this point and the primary objective of fire managers is to prevent it from doing so.
There are currently six personnel assigned to the fire and measures have been taken to protect four cabins that could be threatened by the fire, three of which are on park and preserve lands and one located in theTetlin Refuge. The cabin closest to the fire is the King City Cabin, which is about 4 miles south of the fire on the Chisana River.
Firefighters have set up sprinklers around the cabin and were planning to activate them on Friday to wet down the area around the cabin. Personnel also set up sprinklers around the Stuver Creek Cabin that is located about 4 miles southwest of where the fire is burning.
In addition to cabin protection, the objective of fire managers is to prevent the fire from reaching the Sheep Creek drainage about 5 miles upstream from the King City Cabin. If the fire reaches that point, fire managers will discuss a course of action to prevent it from reaching Chisana.
As the protection agency for the area, the state Division of Forestry office in Tok is working closely with interagency managers from the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs to monitor the fire. The Alaska Division of Forestry will take suppression action if structures and other values at risk identified by NPS and USFWS become threatened.
For information on the Chisana River 2 Fire, go to https://inciweb.nwcg.gov. For other statewide fire information, visit http://akfireinfo.com or the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center website at http://fire.ak.blm.gov.