Fire officials shift priorities as wet weather slows Shovel Creek Fire

Shovel Creek Fire map on July 19 (Image courtesy of AKFireInfo)

The Shovel Creek wildfire response is transitioning as weeks of work and cooler, wetter weather have slowed activity on the blaze northwest of Fairbanks. Sparked by lightning nearly a month ago, the Shovel Creek fire forced evacuations earlier this month, and more than 500 people continue to work the incident. Speaking at a public meeting last night incident deputy commander Jay Winfield said the prognosis looks good.

”We don’t anticipate, we don’t believe that we’re going to see any significant movement on this fire,” Winfield said.

Winfield said that’s allowing the response to shift. Operations chief Fred Thompson says the focus is on remaining hot spots, mopping up lines and demobilizing a large amount of equipment from the field.

”We have 60 miles of hose out there that we’re in the process of removing as we finish using it,” Thompson said.

Another focus is repairing fire lines cut across the landscape. Fairbanks area forester Jeremy Douse said that includes work to minimizing erosion and thaw.

”Any permafrost soils that were exposed, we want to cover those up as quickly as possible, just so it doesn’t subside and create issues,” Douse said.

Douse said crews are also working to return trails and roads used for access and fire line to their pre-fire condition. The response to the Shovel Creek wildfire has so far cost $21 million, 75 percent of which will be covered by the federal government. It’s just one of 31 fires being worked statewide, including two new lightning caused blazes responded to Thursday, near the villages of Tanana and Ruby.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.