Pioneer Peak Interagency Hotshot Crew firefighters walk out to a helicopter that will shuttle them to the fireline on the Oregon Lakes Fire on May 15, 2019. (From Alaska Wildland Fire Information)
Mother Nature is doing no favors for more than 100 firefighters battling a massive blaze near Fort Greely, which has now doubled in size after heavy winds from a thunder cell provided unwanted fuel.
The Oregon Lakes Fire had grown to 12,904 acres by Thursday, according to a statement from the federal Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska Fire Service. A total of 128 personnel and four crews have been assigned to fight the human-caused fire which started April 30, at a cost to date of more than $775,000. Last week, fire crews were hindered by unexploded ordnance in Fort Greely’s Donnelly Training Area, where the blaze has been burning.
“Yesterday, erratic winds from passing thunderstorms drove the fire north where crews were working with heavy equipment to extend the firebreak west of Douglas Creek,” Fire Service officials wrote. “Retardant air tankers from Palmer and Fairbanks kept the advancing fire in check allowing firefighters and heavy equipment to safely redirect their firebreak construction along the winter trail.”
A Thursday update from the Alaska Wildland Fire Information blog included an aerial video from the fire about 11 miles south of Delta Junction, recorded Wednesday evening.
The fire has extended outside the impact area south of the winter trail and shear line. Crews will continue to remove burnable vegetation and strengthen firebreaks, but residents in the area should remain alert.
“Since the Delta area is prone to wildfires, the public is encouraged to take steps to minimize the impact of a fire to their property,” Fire Service officials wrote. “More information is available through the Delta Area Forestry Prevention office at (907)895-4225 or Firewise online information.”
A temporary flight restriction affecting both military and civilian aircraft during firefighting efforts remains in place.
Thursday’s forecast in the area, according to the Fire Service, called for southerly winds from 5 to 13 mph gusting up to 25 mph. Warmer and drier weather was set to be followed by a thermal trough “predicted to move over the fire area bringing isolated thunderstorms.” There was a chance of rain Friday morning, followed in the afternoon by isolated showers and thunderstorms.
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