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(Fairbanks, AK) – Low relative humidity, high temperatures and Red Flag conditions for high winds pushed the Chisana River 2 Fire south under ideal burning conditions Monday, resulting in an increase of 118 acres. Mild to moderate fire activity was observed on the north flank while the southwest flank experienced single and group tree torching, common in the boreal forest ecosystem.
The fire, now 8,668 acres, is burning in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. Smoke from the fire is visible from the community of Beaver Creek in the Yukon Territory and the Alaska Highway. Traffic has not been affected by the fire, however.
On Monday, the incident command post was relocated to Chisana to allow the incident commander and five other firefighters to reach radio communications and safely monitor weather observations. Over the next week, firefighters will continue to install and improve structure protection and calibrate newly installed remote automated weather stations. A small helicopter will be used to perform observation flights to monitor the growth and spread of the fire.
A high-pressure ridge over the area is forcing relative humidity to drop and temperatures to climb into the 70’s and low 80s. As a result, fire managers expect the fire to remain active throughout the week. There is a chance of dry thunderstorms in the forecast Tuesday which may cause significant fire growth and potential new starts in the area. While no structures are threatened, smoke will remain visible from Beaver Creek, Yukon and the Alaska Highway.
The fire is currently burning in a limited protection area and there have been no suppression efforts taken as a result. 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. In the northeastern portion of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Tetlin
National Wildlife Refuge, these fires have increased the number of niches for wildlife species and improved habitat diversity.
As the protecting 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.