Smokejumpers Called In To Protect Historic Structures From Wildfires In Denali National Park

A team of smokejumpers has been working in the backcountry of Denali National Park to protect some historic structures from wildfires that are burning nearby.

The eight smokejumpers landed in the backcountry earlier this week to protect two historic ranger patrol cabins potentially threatened by the Wigand Creek and Toklat River East Fires, which were expected to burn together.

The Lower Toklat cabin, built in 1931 and located approximately 23 miles north of the Denali Park Road, is not quite a mile west of the Toklat River East Fire. The East Fork cabin is about 4.5 miles east of the Toklat River East Fire. It was constructed in 1930 and is about 18 miles north of the road.

In the past, Park Service fire crews removed shrubs, trees, and other potential fuel from the vicinity of the cabins within the past five years as part of the park's hazardous fuel treatment program. The smokejumpers were planning a burnout operation at the Lower Toklat Cabin, as it is more at risk due to the fire's proximity. The jumpers at the Lower East Fork Cabin were to do hose lays and prepare a sprinkler system.

Denali fire managers were able to fly over the park Tuesday and map areas of the fires that were not obscured by smoke. There has been minimal change in the size of most of the fires burning in the park.

The Beaver Log Lakes Fire is now 63,000 acres. Fire personnel will continue to mopup around the cabins and other structures where burnout operations took place on the north shore of Lake Minchumina.The Type 3 Incident Management Team (IMT) managing this fire and the 26,266- acre Moving River Fire will gradually downsize operations as fire conditions permit.

The more than 22,000–acre Sandless Lake Fire on the northern park boundary was mapped Tuesday and observers saw active fire on most of its perimeter. Due to heavy smoke portions of the fire were estimated. Areas that burned in 2009 are to the north and west of the fire.

The McKinley River East Fire that is 14 miles northwest of Wonder Lake was mapped at 4,417 acres. It is burning in an area adjacent the McKinley River where a large fire burned in 1986.It and other lightning-ignited fires burning in remote backcountry areas of the park are not threatening any critical park resources, and will continue to be monitored for any significant changes in activity.

Fire danger for the park and surrounding area is moderate to high. The National Park Service is urging park visitors to be extremely cautious with anything that could start a wildfire. Campfires are discouraged, but they are permitted in the fire grates in three of the park's campgrounds. Fires are not allowed in the park's wilderness areas. Fireworks are not allowed in the park and will be confiscated. Persons using fireworks in the park may be prosecuted.

There are currently 109 active wildfires in Alaska. Where there is fire, there is smoke. Due to the current and expected statewide fire activity, park visitors should anticipate the possibility of varying levels of smoke in the park. Wildfire smoke information is available at http://dec.alaska.gov/air/smokemain.htm. Visit http://fire.ak.blm.gov for statewide information and a map of the active fires.