Cooler, wetter weather helps Interior fires, but ‘it’s not a season-ending event,’ says official

a person in a piece of heavy equipment grinds and chops trees
A masticator works to grind and chip trees and brush on the Clear Fire, removing fuel sources in the Kobe Ag Subdivision. (Mark Enty/Northwest Team 10)

More than 14,000 lightning strikes have hit Alaska and neighboring Canadian territories since early Monday. Most of the strikes were concentrated between the Brooks and Alaska ranges in the central and eastern half of Alaska, reported the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

The center reported 11 new wildfire starts, all of them ignited by lightning. But many of the recent thunderstorms dropped rain, as a shift to cooler, wetter weather progresses. Fire information officer Jose Acosta said wildfire activity is slowing, but meteorologists are not calling the season yet.

“It is not a season-ending event,” he said. “This will cause a lull in fire activity that could easily pick up.”

Acosta said new fire crews from the Lower 48 are being flown into the state this week to replace crews who are required to take time off. More than 1,000 firefighters are working in the state.

As of Tuesday morning, there were about 255 active fires, a dozen of which were being fought. More than 2.7 acres have burned so far this season.

The rain was helping firefighters battle the Clear Fire near the Interior community of Anderson.

About a half inch fell into early Monday, allowing crews to build more fire breaks to help control the wildfire started by lightning June 21.

Evacuation orders were place for all properties accessed by roads, trails or driveways on the west side of the Parks Highway from mileposts 269 to 275.

At least one home has been confirmed to have been lost, and Denali Borough officials will make an official assessment of other structures, said Mark Enty, a spokesperson for the fire.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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