Employees evacuate Donlin Gold mine as Smith Creek Fire threatens structures
People working at the Donlin Gold project site in Southwest Alaska were relocated to Anchorage about a week ago as the Smith Creek Fire still burns threatening buildings nearby.
The fire started on July 12, then it moved and burned further north into two other fires, the Peary Creek Fire and Timber Creek Fire.
No lightning strikes were reported on Sunday and there weren't any new fires either. However, fire crews remain in place one mile west of the site to defend 80 cabins in danger, the Nixon Mine, as well as the community of Red Devil, AK Fire Info stated.
Deep layers of vegetation in the tundra are dry, which is a concern because it could potentially catch on fire. Cooler temperatures could help though as the weather shifts over the next few days, according to information from the Department of Natural Resources.
Winds are pushing the smoke southward, which means residents in the area could see smoke, possibly making visibility worse as the wind pattern continues, according to an update from DNR issued on Tuesday. All the heavy smoke in the area is slowing resupply efforts, making it difficult for crews to map the fires and retrieve updated information on the size of the fires. Temperatures are expected in the low 80s for the next few days with the chance of thunderstorms, lightning and maybe a little rain.
In terms of resources, two fixed-wing logistical airplanes and three helicopters are based at the DNR McGrath Fire Base, with another helicopter staffing fires near Aniak. There are also two initial attack helicopters with 16 firefighters based in McGrath as well.
AK Fire Info says all but nine Donlin Gold personnel have been safely relocated to Anchorage. The company said in their post the relocation was mainly a precaution. Employees will be able to return once the project site is no longer in danger from the fire.
This Smith Creek Fire has burned mainly black spruce to date and was mapped 12,700 acres as of July 22. Firefighters have had to use heavy equipment on-site to make control lines for the fire and conduct operations to protect all the cabins in danger.
AK Fire Info says 445,474 acres have burned in Southwest Alaska this year; in total close to 2 million acres have burned across the entire state.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to clarify the work site that was evacuated.
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