June 13, 2015
Tim Mowry, (907) 356-5511
Tok, Alaska —Cool, damp weather helped keep a large wildfire burning near the Alaska/Canada border in check on Friday but that could change with a change in weather.
There was minimal activity Friday on the 8.466-acre Chisana River 2 Fire burning about 20 miles south of the Alaska Highway and approximately 25 miles west of the border. The fire actually shrank in size by more than 500 acres as a result of better mapping on Friday. It was previously estimated at 9,000 acres.
Fire managers reported only a few smokes on the fire Saturday morning and precipitation had fallen on parts of the fire. Smoke is visible from the Alaska Highway but the road remains open. There has been no fire-related impact on traffic and none is expected at this time.
A high-pressure ridge will build over Alaska starting today, causing temperatures to rise rapidly and the relative humidity to drop, increasing the potential for fire growth. Temperatures are expected to climb into the 70s or low 80s and fire managers expect more fire activity as a result of the warmer, drier weather.
The lightning-caused fire was reported on June 9 and is burning in both the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge south of Tok. The fire is located in a limited protection area and there have been no suppression efforts taken as a result. At this point, land managers have opted to let the fire take its natural course, as fire is a natural process in the boreal ecosystem of Interior Alaska and restores ecosystem health and helps to maintain species diversity in the forest.
While no structures of value are immediately threatened, structure protection measures have been put in place for the Stuver Lake Cabin, a Tetlin Refuge administrative cabin about seven miles north of the fire. Personnel will also start structure protection today on three additional cabins in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park &Preserve - the King City Cabin, the Stuver Creek Cabin and Upper Stuver Cabin.
Fire managers are continuing to monitor the fire for growth and direction of spread. Using a National Park Service helicopter, personnel installed one remote automated weather station (RAWS) on Friday and performed maintenance on another RAWS station. The plan today is to place a repeater in operation on Wellesely Mountain to improve communications and install one more RAWS station.
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 closely monitor the fire. The Division of Forestry will take action if structures and other values at risk identified by NPS and USFWS are threatened.
Naturally-caused wildfires have burned in the northeastern portion of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in the past and the fire is sandwiched on the east and west by old burn areas. A 2013 fire on the east side of the Chisana River in the same area, the Chisana River Fire, burned 46,637.5 acres. The Chisana River 2 Fire is burning on the west side of the river.