Updated 11:50 p.m.
FAIRBANKS — Residents of Hayes Creek Subdivision were advised to leave Monday as firefighters prepared to initiate a burnout procedure on the Hastings Fire.
A burnout, often mistakenly called a backfire, burns fuel in a controlled way between a contingency line created by firefighters and the leading edge, or head, of a fire.
“Since it’s such a big fire, it has several heads that stretch across the north side,” said Pete Buist, lead information officer for the Alaska Type One Incident Management Team. “We’ll be working on the head that’s closest to Hayes Creek Subdivision.”
A burnout is a firefighting tactic used more often in Alaska than in the Lower 48 because it is best used in remote areas, Buist said.
“We’ll be hand-firing and then aerial firing from a contingency line that’s already been constructed with dozers. The folks that are doing it are very, very good at what they do,” he said.
The Hastings Fire has consumed an estimated 12,019 acres since igniting May 30 through a cause that has not yet been determined. The fire is 8 percent contained and is being fought by 563 people.
The Hayes Creek Subdivision contains 20 to 30 structures, but there is no estimate on how many people live there. A borough bus was provided for those residents without highway transportation, but people are not being forced to leave, Buist said.
“We would appreciate it if they left, because it would facilitate the burnout,” he said. “This is a tactic to try to preserve their structures.”
The borough was also preparing a contingency plan to alert residents via automated landline calls and using the Emergency Alert System, which broadcasts emergency information on radio and television stations. A crew composed of a safety officer and a public information officer was going door to door with information about the advisory and posting the information on the doors if no one appeared to be home.
East Volkmar Fire
Roughly 100 miles to the south, another 347 firefighters were working the 72-square mile East Volkmar Fire about 25 miles northeast of Delta Junction.
The fire Sunday made short runs in spruce forest on isolated sections of the south and north sides of the fire.
Cooler weather Monday allowed firefighters to take action on the west perimeter of the fire south of the South Fork of the Goodpaster River, an area of concern because of cabins on the river.
As of Monday morning, 42 wildfires were burning in Alaska, including two new ones. Four others were reported extinguished.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7590. Associated Press writer Dan Joling contributed to this report