Investigators Studying Cause of Delta-area Wildfire, Season's First Big Fire in Interior

May 11, 2018

Updated: Alaska Forestry Division officials said Saturday they no longer believe the Delta Junction-area wildfire now called the North Eielson Fire was caused by a tree blown over onto a powerline. The cause is under investigation.

About a dozen State Forestry Division firefighters from around the Interior and personnel from local fire departments initially responded to a 30-acre wildfire in a residential area in Delta Junction this afternoon.

Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says the fire was reported around 1 p.m.

Smoke billows from the wildfire that broke out this afternoon in a residential area of Delta Junction. It grew quickly when winds blew it into grassy areas, but Forestry officials say it's slowed down as it began burning into timber, where the moisture content remains relatively high.
Credit Alaska Division of Forestry

“It was a tree on a power line that started a couple of fires, and they merged together,” he said. “And it got into a grassy field and spread pretty quickly with the wind that’s blowing down there.”

The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory effective ‘til 6 a.m. Saturday for the Delta and Deltana area for south winds blowing 25- to-35-miles-per-hour and gusting to 50. Mowry says that’s why Forestry has issued a burn ban for the area. He says the fire is burning in a residential area in the northern part of town.

“Tanana Loop Extension – there’s quite a few people who live on that road,” he said.

Livestock owners who live in the agricultural area are bringing their animals to the Deltana Fairgrounds, as a precaution. Delta city officials have opened up the community center in town in case evacuations are ordered, but Mowry says that hadn’t happened as of 3:30 this afternoon.

“There are no evacuations taking place at this point,” he said. “There were some structures immediately threatened, but that’s been mitigated. And like I say, we also have fire department on hand that’s helping out with structure protection.”

Volunteers from Delta city and Rural Deltana fire departments along with Forestry equipment and firefighters out of Delta, Tok and Fairbanks are working to suppress the blaze. Mowry says an aerial tanker out of Palmer had dropped a load of retardant this afternoon.

“Kids are being kept at the school rather than being shipped home, just to make sure that things are safe and that school buses aren’t getting in the way,” he said.

Mowry says this is the Fairbanks Forestry office’s fire significant wildfire of the season.

“We’ve had a lot of debris burns that’ve escaped,” he said, “but nothing to this extent where we’ve got an air tanker and got crews and things like that.”

Mowry says the fire isn’t yet contained, and he had no estimate on when it might be.