Crews battling the Stuart Creek 2 Wildfire northeast of Fairbanks have made significant progress. But, an evacuation watch for residents of nearby Two Rivers and Pleasant Valley remains in effect.
For firefighters, it could be a race against the clock. A warm dry forecast could bring Red Flag conditions back to the region by the end of the week.
The sky over Fairbanks is gray, but not from smoke. Clouds and rain have dominated the forecast in the region for the last 24 hours.
Richard Hadley is a Public Information Officer with an incident management team assigned to the Stuart Creek 2 Fire. He says the weather has helped keep growth of the fire to a minimum.
“We got light rain across the whole fire [Monday], which knocked down fire behavior and that’s allowing firefighters to get right up on the edge and build direct line, which will minimize the acreage,” Hadley said.
Hadley says firefighters have gained control over some of the most critical areas of the fire where it’s burning near homes along Chena Hot Springs Road.
“We were able to call the area between milepost 24 and 30 where the fire reached the Chena River, we’re calling that controlled so the fire is now 15 percent contained and the fire is now at a little over 82,000 acres,” Hadley said.
Officials don’t anticipate the fire will grow significantly over the next two days, but warm, dry weather could prompt Red Flag Warnings later in the week. That has firefighters scrambling to gain an upper hand.
“It’s gonna change dramatically here so we’re gonna see temperatures go up, relative humidity will drop into the teams and strong winds out of the north northeast are projected,” Hadley said. “The next 24 hours we need to knock out as much of this containment line as we can in advance of changing conditions.”
Firefighters from all over the country are battling the blaze, including crews from Maine, Minnesota and West Virginia. To date, the fire has cost more than $6.5 million.
Richard Hadley says much of that comes from fighting it by air.
“We’ve got 12 helicopters operating as well as all the air tankers and that’s a large cost and it’s been needed and when the fire was making those big runs really the only way to fight it was from those air resources,” Hadley said.
Hadley says although two injuries have been reported, neither was serious.
“They didn’t require medical emergencies and we believe those firefighters will be back out on the line within a day or so,” Hadley said.
Despite progress official says conditions are still serious for residents living along Chena Hot Springs Road.