Heavy Rain Falls on Hastings Fire; Small Streams Flood Advisory Issued
Mother Nature gave a stubborn fire near Chatanika its best shot on Wednesday and Thursday.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
FAIRBANKS — Mother Nature gave a stubborn fire near Chatanika its best shot on Wednesday and Thursday, dumping nearly 1.5 inches of rain on the blaze during a heavy overnight downpour.
The Hastings Fire, which has burned more than 23,000 acres since it started a month ago, got the most rainfall recorded in the area during a soggy storm. A remote weather station north of Murphy Dome collected 1.47 inches close to the fire’s perimeter.
“The Hastings Fire was right under the bullseye of the heaviest precipitation,” said National Weather Service hydrologist Ed Plumb.
The rain was so heavy, in fact, that it halted much of the work being done by roughly 200 firefighters still at the site. Repair work on fire suppression lines and aircraft support for crews was hampered by the downpour, said fire information officer Celeste Prescott.
She said fire crews are still working to build a 50-foot line around the entire perimeter of the fire. As of Thursday, the Hastings Fire was 80 percent contained.
Despite the damp weather, Prescott said it’s premature to consider the blaze snuffed.
“A lot of people think it rains and the fire’s out, but that’s not the case in Alaska,” she said. “If it gets down into the duff, it’ll keep burning.”
Prescott said the firefighters remaining on the blaze will gradually be pulled off in the days ahead. If conditions remain favorable, she said it could be unstaffed within 5-7 days, just a few weeks after more than 1,000 firefighters were assigned to Hastings.
The storm that blanketed the Hastings Fire brought varying amounts of rain to the area, with most of it concentrated on Fairbanks and a 50-mile area north of the city.
Monitors in Ester and the Goldstream Valley tallied nearly an inch of rain, while the University of Alaska Fairbanks got 0.87 inches. The official rainfall at Fairbanks International Airport was just 0.35 inches, with rainfall growing sparse to the east. Eielson Air Force Base got only 0.15 inches of rain.
The downpour will translate into high water levels on some local rivers starting today, including the Chena, Chatanika and Birch Creek. All of those rivers are expected to remain within their banks, Plumb said.
A flood advisory for small streams was issued Thursday, but the threat of minor flooding was expected to pass early this morning.