2015 June Monthly Report
The month started off with warning of a cold front moving into the Interior. About an inch of snow was recorded in Salcha and Delta Junction. Snow laden trees and high winds brought down power lines south of Salcha. Frost level temperatures persisted until the 2nd. Circle Hot Springs recorded a low of 24°F. The front also brought red flag warnings for the Interior, Western and Northern areas due to high winds. Gusts over to 50 mph on the Dalton Highway generated travel advisories. The winds knocked down power lines in Stevens Village. The 2nd also saw warnings for heavy rain and winds in the coastal Southcentral areas. Snow was forecasted in parts of Denali National Park on the 10th. Snowfall was also expected north in the Brooks Range. Hail was recorded near Anchorage on the 16th.
Smokey weather was predicted for the Solstice weekend in Anchorage. The air quality declined in the Fairbanks area the next day due to smoke, and was an issue for much of the rest of the month. Some outdoor events were canceled. Flash flood warnings were issued for the eastern Interior on the 27th due to heavy rains. Heavy rains were also forecasted at the end of the month for near Fairbanks.
The biggest news events of the month centered on the numerous wildfires that sprung up across the state during the month. This summary is a just highlight of some of the events. The red flag and wildfire warnings that were set across most of the interior of Alaska on the 9th persisted through much of the month for varying areas of the Interior.
The Cummings Road Fire, one of six to start on the 1st, was reported east of Delta Junction near the Alaska Highway. Crews were sent to fight it. The Chisana fire in Wrangle-St Elias National Park grew to 9,000 acres by the 12th, then 30,000 by the 21st. On the 14th, the Sockeye Fire, near Willow on the Parks Highway was reported. It exploded to 6,500 areas the next day. Evacuations of 1,700 residents structures were ordered, and the fire jumped the highway forcing its closure for a time. In total, it destroyed 55 homes and cabins, plus many other structures. A large number of fire fighters were sent to contain the blaze. Evacuations ended on the 22nd, and some crews were reassigned to other more pressing fires even though the fire continued to burn.
The Card Street fire, burning along the Sterling Highway near milepost 77 was reported at 75 acres on the 15th. The fire grew by 1,200 acres in just eight hours. Crews were sent to fight the fires, and evacuations were ordered for residents and nearby campgrounds. It destroyed eleven homes before moving east into the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Crews were shifted north to fight the Rex complex fire south of Nenana by the 22nd. The Governor issued a disaster declaration for the Card Street fire on the 19th.
The Rex complex fires near Anderson started on the 19th, and it was listed at 3,600 acres on the 21st. Evacuations were issued for nearby residents. Some structures were burned and it threatened 20 more, hence the fire was aggressively fought. It was the top priority by the 30th, having jumped to nearly 20,000 acres on the 23rd. More than 400 firefighters were assigned to the fires at one point.
A rapidly spreading fire called Healy Lake near Delta Junction was reported on the 18th. It threated remote cabins and tried to jump the Tanana River. A fire located on an island in the Tanana River near Dot Lake was partially contained also on the 18th. Drivers were asked not to stop on the Alaska Highway in the vicinity of the fire. The next day a fast moving fire was reported near Northway started at the village dump was fought with aircraft and small crew.
Trails and cabins were closed in the Chena River State Recreation area on the 22nd due to the Anaconda Creek Fire north of the Chena Hot Springs Road. Lower 48 crews were sent to fight it. It was joined by the West Fork Fire in threatening cabins in the area on the 26th. Evacuations were called for the Himalaya Subdivision north of Fairbanks due to the Hayes fire 10 miles west of the Elliott Highway. The Aggie Creek fire hit more than 13,000 acres, and then jumped the highway. Lightning in Denali National Park on the 23rd started five new wildfires. Some evacuations were issued for Eureka also on the 23rd. Firefighters were able to keep a fire out of the village of Nulato, but more than 100 residents were evacuated. Older and vulnerable people of Tanana was evacuated due to the Tozitna fire that grew to more than 25,000 acres, one of several fires burning in the Middle Yukon area. More evacuations occurred on the 25th in the villages of Chuathbakuk and Aniak. McGrath airport was closed due to lack of visibility. Fires threatened the village of Crow.
Solstice weekend saw about 200 new fires started across the state. Fireworks and open fires were banned across much of Alaska for the second half of the month in the wake of the high fire danger. The State did lift its fireworks ban statewide, except for the Southwest, on the 30th, but local bans remained in place. In addition, the Fairbanks North Star Borough has suspended all woodcutting on borough land. By the end of the month, the season had racked up 610 fires that had burned 1,600,000 acres, a greater total by the end of June than the record setting fire year of 2004. All the activity fully tasked the ability of local fire crews and equipment. More of each had to be sent up from the lower 48. Crews totaled more than 2,000 during the month. Wetter weather at the end of the month help settled a number of the fires down.