Firefighters work to protect structures from 2 wildfires in Delta Junction area

a water tender
Water tenders support fire crews on the Pogo Road Mine Fire in August 2023. (Zak Overmyer/Alaska Division of Forestry and Fire Protection)

Alaska’s two largest active wildfires are burning in the Delta Junction area.

As of Monday, the Pogo Mine Road Fire covered 25,000 acres around the trans-Alaska pipeline and the underground gold mine’s access road. Meanwhile the Delta Fire had burned over 20,000 acres on state and military lands south of the Richardson Highway.

The Pogo Mine Road Fire fire grew significantly over the weekend. In an online update on Monday night, Delta-area state fire management officer Michael Goyette said firefighters are working to protect structures.

“The fire’s been backing up through the structures to the pipeline,” he said.

Goyette said the fire has primarily been advancing to the north-northeast.

“Up through the mountains, away from the highway, the pipeline, the power line, and some other residence(s).  We are currently prepping for the homes and preparing them if needed along the Pogo Road at the entranceway,” he said.

Structure protection work is also happening on the the Delta Fire. And Goyette said that a smaller wildfire in the area, the Mt. Hayes Fire, was burning south of the Alaska Highway and had crossed the Gerstle River, prompting air attack late Monday.

“A bunch of aircraft trying to hold that in between some of the slough ways and the Gerstle River,” he said.

Goyette also addressed the heavy wildfire smoke impacting the region, noting that while smoke causes health and safety issues, it’s beneficial to firefighting.

“When we have all this smoke that’s setting down with the inversion, that keeps the fire behavior down. That allows the firefighters and equipment to get in there, and try to get more fire line put in, get structures prepped,” he said.

Cooler temperatures and showers remain in the forecast, but there were nearly 2,500 lightning strikes in Alaska and the Yukon Territory on Monday alone. Many of those strikes were clustered in the Ray Mountains, west of the Dalton Highway and south of the Koyukuk River.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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