Nine fires burning in the wildlands north of Delta Junction have resulted in the creation of a complex with an incident management team to manage those fires. The Type 2 Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 3 has taken over management of all the fires in the complex.

The incident management team is set up in the Delta Secondary School Complex.

The complex consists of nine fires, the Yukon Creek (#296), Marshall Mountain (#420), Central Creek (#437), Central Creek Airstrip (#295), Porcupine Creek (#375), South Fork (#427), Gold Hub (#455), California Creek (#472), and Gilles Creek (#460).

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, the fires had consumed a total of 23,386 acres and are responsible for the smoke seen in the local area earlier this week. All of the fires were started by lightning over the past week.

The Middle Tanana Complex is comprised of nine fires split geographically into three divisions (S-Salcha River corridor, G-Goodpaster River corridor, and P-Pogo Mine).

In Division S (Salcha), smokejumpers implemented structure protection measures, including clearing brush and debris, and putting sprinklers, pumps, and hoses around buildings on the north side of the Salcha River near the Yukon Fire. Today they will assess structures further downriver for doing similar work.

In Division G (Goodpaster), fire personnel will evaluate the need for structure protection near the South Fork Fire because of its proximity to recreational cabins.

In Division P (Pogo), measures to protect Pogo Mine infrastructure will continue. Resources are available to assist with any new fire starts as needed.

None of the fires appear to threaten Delta Junction directly. The residents off the road system and recreational cabins in the Middle Salcha River and Upper Salcha River Zones are now in SET evacuation status. Visit the Fairbanks North Star Borough evacuation map for evacuations in that Borough:

Temporary Flight Restrictions are in place over the Gold Hub, Gilles Creek, and South Fork fires. Flight restrictions are for any aircraft, including drones.

On Monday, the fires were active and grew significantly due to low relative humidity of 22 percent and a high temperature of 83 degrees. Yesterday, conditions improved slightly, and fire behavior moderated with less growth. On Wednesday smoke in the air combined with milder weather was expected to provide continued moderated fire behavior and lower potential for significant fire growth.

A red flag warning is in effect until midnight Friday  but could be extended with dry warm weather forecast for Friday. Rain is expected over the weekend.

The Gold Hub fire, which was discovered Monday caused a brief power outage to the Pogo mine as the fire burned across the Pogo Mine Road and across the power lines. Crews from Delta Forestry and Rural Deltana Volunteer Fire Department worked to protect the power lines late into the night on Monday and into Tuesday morning.

Crews also worked to protect a large osprey nest built on top of one of the power poles. 

If the winds shift, Delta Junction could see more smoke from the fires. Visit https://akfireinfo.com/smoke-management/ for information about the latest Alaska smoke conditions.

The complex Fire Information Office is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. can be reached by phone at 907-921-2548 or by email at 2022.middletanana@firenet.gov.

A burn suspension remains in effect for the area with only campfires and cooking fires in approved fire rings allowed. The use of burn barrels and other fires are prohibited. The Tanana Valley Forest remains closed to motorized vehciles.

The preparedness level for Alaska has been increased to level five, the highest preparedness level by the Alaska Multi-Agency Coordination Group.

The group indicated in a statement that the move to level five is caused by numerous active large fires and existing resources are committed to fires.

“Preparedness Level 5 (PL5) is assigned when large fires that require incident management teams are occurring in several areas simultaneously and is the highest level identified in the Alaska Preparedness Plan. PL5 status means most of the initial and extended attack resources are committed to new and existing fires,” wrote the group in a press release.

Last week a lightning caused fire destroyed a cabin on the Goodpaster River. Forestry crews contained the fire to the structure and the immediate area around the structure. 

A meeting is scheduled for today, Thursday, July 7 at 7 p.m. in the Delta Junction Community Center to provide an update on the fires. The meeting will be simulcast on KDHS Radio, 95.5 FM.

Michael Paschall is the publisher of the Delta Wind and covers general news topics. He can be reached at news@deltawindonline.com.