FAIRBANKS — Crews are making progress toward containing the 800-acre wildfire on Moose Mountain, fire officials said Sunday.
But while the blaze is not fully under control, they said it could have been far worse.
“The bottom line is, while the fire is not contained, it’s in really good shape,” Division of Forestry information officer Pete Buist told the Daily News-Miner Sunday afternoon.
Rob Allen, the incident commander overseeing a roughly 300 person response, told Goldstream Valley neighbors late Sunday the fire was laying low in the face of hot, dry weather. He told residents attending a neighborhood briefing at the Ken Kunkel Community Center an investigator accessed the site earlier Sunday. But Buist told reporters afterward that fire officials, while fairly certain the blaze is manmade, are still investigating the cause.
Firefighters and bulldozers cut a line around about 60 percent of the fire, the southwest boundary of which runs within a few hundred yards of the Moose Mountain neighborhood’s northernmost cul-de-sac. Three miles of rugged boundary, including spots in the north and east sections of the fire, remain to be cut, but the area was unsuitable for bulldozers. Firefighters would have to cut it by hand.
“There are some very steep areas and some very icy areas,” Buist said. “Just below the surface, it goes to permafrost very quickly.”
Buist said they didn’t want to create more problems by having a dozer get stuck.
New management of the wildfire, in the form of one of the state’s Type II Incident Management Teams, arrived Saturday.
Buist said the Type II teams are called “when a fire appears it’s going to get more complex” in the area of public information and community outreach.
Allen said it’s hard to tell how long the fire might burn — some spots of forest are still damp from snow patches that hung around until early May.
Buist said weather forecasters see dry, hot days ahead. He said fire crews will host 10 o’clock morning meetings at the Kunkel Center for residents interested in getting information about the state’s response first-hand. Others can check the interagency incident management’s website (www.inciweb.org/incident/2240).
The fire was first reported Friday afternoon and grew quickly as strong winds blew northward and away from Goldstream Valley neighborhoods.
Near Healy, a 400-acre fire appeared to be contained during the night and early morning Sunday. Division of Forestry information officer Marc Lee said that firefighters circled the fire with a dozer line.
He said they were able to “pinch it off and run it up into the rocks.”
Fifteen personnel were assigned to the Healy blaze Sunday.
Public officials have an evacuation system if wildfires threaten a neighborhood.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough’s “reverse 911” system stores all hard-wired phone numbers, assigned by neighborhood, across the borough. David Gibbs, the borough’s emergency director, said a decision to evacuate any of the handful of neighborhoods near the Moose Mountain fire would trigger automatic calls to every listed or unlisted phone number in that neighborhood.
Gibbs said the borough is adding cell numbers from residents to the list. Anyone interested in adding their cell phone to the reverse 911 system’s spreadsheets should email their name, address and cell phone number to emergencyoper firstname.lastname@example.org.