Wildfire near Chena Hot Springs grows to 9,000 acres

Smoke rises at the end of a dirt trail in some rolling hills
The Munson Creek Fire as seen from a ridge behind Chena Hot Springs on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (Matt Nunnelly/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry)

A wildfire near Chena Hot Springs east of Fairbanks expanded to nearly 9,000 acres by Thursday night. 

Hot, dry weather has allowed the Munson Creek Fire to grow exponentially over the last two days, said Alaska Division of Forestry spokesperson Tim Mowry.

“There was ash falling into the hot springs, which is not surprising when you’ve got a 9000-acre fire two miles away that’s really cranking away,” he said.

The lightning-caused fire was first reported on June 18, burning in a limited-protection area of mostly black spruce. It surged several times in the recent weeks but was mostly quiet until the past two days as high heat and low relative humidity caused it to balloon.

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Mowry said the blaze has pushed northeast to a ridge just south of the Chena Hot Springs Resort.

“About a half mile south of some yurts that the hot springs has set up, within about a half mile from the shelter cabin on the Angel Rocks Trail,” he said. “And also there’s a remote automated weather station out there that we’re trying to protect.”

About a hundred firefighters are working the blaze, and multiple loads of retardant have been dropped to try to stop the fire from backing down the ridge toward the resort, said Mowry.

“If it does make it over there, the hot springs itself is a well-defensible place.
They have a lot of cleared space around that area,” he said. “So that’s still not a huge concern right.”

Mowry said plans are in place to protect area structures including farther north along the last portion of Chena Hot Springs Road. The Fairbanks North Star Borough reported area residents on Thursday to be ready to evacuate in case conditions worsen, and the state parks department has closed the popular Angel Rocks trail.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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