More than 1,000 firefighters are working in Alaska as the state continues to experience an intense fire season, with more than 225 active fires.
There were 4,500 lightning strikes in Alaska Tuesday — the latest in a run of days with thousands of ground strikes. There were also another 13 new, primarily lightning sparked wildfires in the state Tuesday, mostly in the Interior. National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Brader said the situation is the product of high pressure over Northwestern Canada and low pressure in the Bering Sea.
“We’ve seen a series of upper level low pressure troughs that have moved from Southeast to the Northwest across the state over the last four or five days and each of those has caused thunderstorms,” he said.
Brader added that the thunderstorms are occurring outside their normal daily time frame.
“We’ve had thunderstorms somewhere in the state going all through the night, you know until 7 or 8 in the morning,” he said.
Nearly 25,000 lightning strikes were detected in Alaska between June 28 and July 4, and Brader emphasized they’ve coincided with very dry conditions.
“I mean here in Fairbanks we’ve only had a half inch of rain this summer,” he said. “It’s way below what we would normally have of like 1.6 inches.”
Brader said wildfires in Southwest Alaska are forecast to get some rain over the next day or two, but not enough to put them out. He said the Interior is expected to remain in a warm, relatively dry pattern, with some thunderstorms through the weekend.
Conditions vary on the many fires burning across the state. Minto Lakes Fire information officer Kristen Allison reported less fire activity on the 32,000-acre blaze north of the Chatanika River.
“For the last couple of days we’ve been sitting under a high pressure system and really what it’s done for us is moderated our fire growth,” she said.
Allison said crews continue to work along the river doing structure protection on more than 60 cabins.
“They’re putting in hoses, pumps and sprinklers — and actually doing limbing around houses — in the event that the fire actually does progress down the hill and make push at the structures or try to cross the river,” she said.
Allison said that work is about 75% complete. Meanwhile, other crews are working on the fire’s eastern edge where it could threaten the Himalaya and Hayes Creek subdivisions. Allison said they’re reopening lines built during the 2011 Hastings Fire.
“To try to connect that all the way down to the river, in effect cutting it off from the values at risk toward the east, the homes there, the Elliot Highway and the Pipeline,” she said.