Barley Way fire near containment -- with help from rainy weather
State’s largest fire of the year so far blackens 310 acres in farm fields; investigators believe it was human-caused
Firefighters have nearly contained this year’s biggest wildfire so far. And rainy weather that’s scheduled to set-in tonight should help them control that fire near Delta Junction and dampen fire danger elsewhere around the eastern Interior.
The Barley Way Fire grew to about 310 acres in an agricultural area south of Delta by Monday, two days after it was reported. It burned through dry grass and trees, helped along by warm and windy weather. But a quick initial response by the state Forestry Division and Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers, and the onset of cooler rainy weather, helped to halt the fire’s growth.
“The Barley Way Fire is still hot, 90 percent contained, and it is still at 310 acres,” said Lily Coyle, a Forestry spokesperson. Coyle says two hotshot crews from Fairbanks brought in Saturday night and a dozen White Mountain firefighters who arrived Tuesday spent that day knocking down small fires within that 310 acres.
“The White Mountain module, along with the two hotshot crews, were still going through and performing mop-up operations, looking for hotspots, extinguishing any hotspots,” she said, “and then they were also still working on putting in containment lines.”
Coyle said Wednesday afternoon that if all continued to go well, Forestry officials likely would send the Midnight Sun Hotshots and Chena Hotshots back to Fairbanks.
“The White Mountain firefighters will remain on-site, along with the heavy equipment, to just make sure there’s no new spread and will continue to perform mop-up and containment operations,” she said.
The firefighters are likely to get some help from more cool and rainy weather forecast to set-in tonight around much of the eastern Interior.
“We’re looking at a line of showers to hit Fairbanks Thursday afternoon timeframe, and then have scattered showers in the forecast through Friday morning,” said Dakari Anderson, a Fairbanks National Weather Service meteorologist.
Anderson says there’s even a slight chance that some of the precipitation could come in the form of snow in some higher elevations.
“So you’re looking at the White Mountains, Fortymile country, could see some chances of snow with the cooling temperatures there,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “But otherwise, everyone else should be seeing rain.”
Coyle says the near-containment of the Barley Way Fire and the prospect of more rain led Forestry officials on Tuesday to lift a burn ban they’d imposed on the Delta area. But it remains in effect for Fairbanks, Salcha and elsewhere around the Railbelt.
Forestry officials say the Barley Way Fire was one of 22 human-caused fires reported last week.
Meanwhile, a series of prescribed burns on military training areas around the eastern Interior is nearly completed.
“We have about 85 percent of the prescribed burning done,” said Beth Ipsen, a federal Alaska Fire Service spokesperson. Ipsen says the agency has burned-off vegetation in the Donnelly Training Area near Fort Greely. And began work Wednesday on an area east of Eielson. And she says the agency will begin burning on two other area ranges today.
“Stuart Creek Impact Area, which is north of Eielson,” she said, “and the Oklahoma Range, which is kind of a remote range, impact area, west of the Delta River.”
Ipsen said in an interview Wednesday that the Alaska Fire Service will then monitor the 50,000-acre Oklahoma range near Fort Greely to ensure unintentional fires don’t pop there.