Wednesday, July 7th: Helped By Cool Damp Weather, Firefighters attack Munson Creek Fire

Munson Creek Fire Slows Its Advance  Firefighters take advantage of cool, damp weather to engage Munson Creek Fire White Mountain firefighte...

Munson Creek Fire Slows Its Advance 

Firefighters take advantage of cool, damp weather to engage Munson Creek Fire

White Mountain firefighter at the Munson Creek Fire near China Hot Springs, July 6th. (Photo, Mike McMillan, DNR) 

Update: Wednesday Night, July 7th

More cool and damp weather today is just what firefighters on the 25,758-acre Munson Creek Fire ordered.

Crews continue to take advantage of quiet fire behavior resulting from light rain, high humidity and cool temperatures to make progress in structure protection on cabins along Chena Hot Springs Road and at Chena Hot Spring Resort.

Crews will focus on clearing brush and installing sprinkler equipment on cabins between mileposts 42 and 48 today.  As of yesterday evening point protection had been completed on 72 cabins on the south side of Chena Hot Springs Road closest to the fire, between miles 48 and 56. Firefighters are strategically positioned to protect structures, cabins and homes in the area if the fire moves close enough to pose a threat. No structures at the resort or on Chena Hot Springs Road have been lost and Chena Hot Springs remains open. Nearly 200 firefighters and overhead personnel are assigned to the Munson Creek Fire.

Update: Tuesday Morning, July 6th

By Tuesday, July 6th, the Munson Creek Fire was reported to be as close as 100 yards from Chena Hot Springs Resort, 1,500 acres of Hot Springs land had burned, and visitors were still arriving – accompanied by pilot cars – to stay at the facility.
No structures burned at Chena Hot Springs as Munson Creek Fire closes in; firefighters strategically positioned to defend resort


BY ALASKA DIVISION OF FORESTRY on JULY 6, 2021

No structures at Chena Hot Springs Resort or along Chena Hot Springs Road have been lost to the Munson Creek Fire as of Tuesday morning. The resort and road remain open but a “Go” evacuation order issued by the Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Emergency Operations remains in place from Mile 48 to the end of the road at Chena Hot Springs.

Very light showers fell on the fire overnight and although insufficient to put the fire out, the increased relative humidity helped slow fire behavior. 

Fire continues to creep downhill within 100 yards of Chena Hot Springs this morning. Firefighters are in position to stop the fire when it reaches that point.

Firefighters are concentrating on structure protection at the resort today. In addition, crews will continue to lay fire hose and install and test sprinklers on cabins between 48 Mile and 53 Mile. Approximately 150 firefighters are positioned to protect structures, cabins and homes in the area.

Erratic, gusty winds and near Red Flag conditions at about 3:p.m. Monday pushed the fire rapidly northward toward the resort, prompting fire managers to recommend the evacuation order for Chena Hot Springs and cabins between Milepost 48 and the resort. Active fire behavior Monday caused the fire to grow to an estimated 25,758 acres.

Firefighters tried to light a backfire between the active fire line and the resort in the afternoon but had to wait until gusty winds subsided. They completed the backburn last evening to remove fuel in front of the fire.

State Troopers checked all cabins from 48 Mile to the resort to make sure inhabitants were aware of the evacuation order and to document how many people planned to remain overnight. Approximately 30 cabin residents opted to stay in the area. Troopers also spoke to guests and staff at Chena Hot Springs Resort to make them aware of the situation.

Firefighters wet down buildings around the resort and cabins closest to the fire with pumps, hoses and sprinklers that have been set up during the past week in anticipation of the fire reaching the resort. Pilot cars escorted vehicles toward and away from the resort last night to minimize traffic conflicts with fire vehicles.

The western edge of the fire has moved closer to Chena Hot Springs Road but remains about 1 mile south of cabins and homes along the end of Chena Hot Springs Road from Mile 48 to 56.

The Fairbanks Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) stationed at the Pleasant Valley Store near 24 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road to provide information to displaced evacuees about shelter. Members from CERT and Volunteers in Policing patrolled Chena Hot Springs Road between Mile 48 and Chena Hot Springs from midnight to 6 a.m. to provide security for vacant cabins and homes.

EVACUATION INFO: A “Go” evacuation notice issued by Fairbanks North Star Borough Emergency Operations is in effect for cabin owners from mileposts 45 to 56, as well as guests and staff at Chena Hot Springs. A “Go” evacuation notice means people should leave the area.

TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTION: A TFR is in effect surrounding the fire including drones. For more information check https://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.jsp?p=list&type=all&sort=s&up=Y When you fly, we can’t.

CLOSURES: All Alaska State Parks facilities east of milepost 45 Chena Hot Springs Road are closed, including the Angel Rocks Trail and trailhead and Chena Dome Trail and trailhead.
FIREWISE: Home and cabin owners are encouraged to clear brush and trees within 30 feet of their structures to make them more defensible if threatened by a wildfire. For more information on Firewise tactics go to: http://forestry.alaska.gov/Assets/pdfs/home/firewise09.pdf



Update: Late Monday Night

The Munson Creek Fire is now within a half mile of the resort and fire crews are hosing down the buildings at the resort.

(Photo, DNR)

The Munson Creek Fire is currently less than a half mile from Chena Hot Springs Resort and trees can be seen torching on the hillside behind the resort as the fire slowly advances down the hill.

As of 8 p.m., there have been no reports of any structures burning. Approximately 150 firefighters are positioned to protect structures, cabins and homes in the area. Firefighters are wetting down buildings around the resort with pumps, hoses and sprinklers that have been set up during the past week in anticipation of the fire reaching the resort. Firefighters are also conducting a backburn along a trail that runs east of the resort to two aurora viewing yurts to burn off fuel before the fire reaches that point in hopes of halting the fire’s advance toward the resort.

(Photo, DNR)
Update: Late Afternoon of July 5th
An evacuation order was issued for Chena Hot Springs Road, 50 miles north of Fairbanks, from Mile 48 to 56. 

But at the popular Chena Hot Springs Resort, Bernie Karl, who owns the place, is not backing down. 

Karl told Webcenter Fairbanks several days before he was advising his guests to "Enjoy the smoke and take a soak." Meanwhile, State Forestry had deployed 8 smokejumpers to try to beat the fire back, the story said. 

By July 5th, the situation was turning dire, according to State Forestry – though Karl remained seemingly unmoved. Forestry released a photograph of visitors soaking in the springs – as smoke rose ominously nearby. 

Visitors lounge in Chena Hot Springs as smoke billows. The flames were expected to come over the hill momentarily. Monday afternoon, July 5th, 2021. (Photo, DNR) 


Here's a story written by State Forestry somewhere around 4:30 pm on Monday, July 5th, explaining the situation: 

Munson Creek Fire intensifies, evacuation order issued for Chena Hot Springs and residences from Mile 48 to 56 on Hot Springs Road 

Due to an increase in fire behavior on the Munson Creek Fire this afternoon, a “Go” evacuation order has been issued for Chena Hot Springs Resort and residences along Chena Hot Springs Road from Mile 48 to Mile 56. The Fairbanks North Star Borough issued a Level 3 “Go” evacuation order at 4:15 p.m. advising local residents and guests at the resort to leave the area immediately. 

Fire intensity picked up at around 3 p.m. and fire managers made the decision to issue the evacuation order when the fire hit a management action point less than a mile behind Chena Hot Springs. A wind change in the next 45 minutes is expected to further influence fire behavior on the ground. Most of the fire growth to this point has been to the east of Chena Hot Springs. No structures have been lost at this point.

There are two well-developed smoke columns behind the hot springs and the fire is advancing toward the resort. Resort owner Bernie Karl does not intend to evacuate the resort and will shelter in place, though some guests and staff at the resort are leaving. Division of Forestry public information officers at Chena Hot Springs are advising the public to evacuate because visibility could decline and make leaving later problematic.

Fire managers expect to be able to see flames coming over the ridge toward the resort. Firefighters working to cut a fire break behind the hot springs were pulled back and are now focusing on structure protection around the resort and at homes/cabins along Chena Hot Springs Road.

More resources have been ordered for the fire, including additional engines and crews to assist with structure protection. Pumps, hoses and sprinklers have been set up around structures at the resort and around cabins/homes down to Mile 52 Chena Hot Springs Road. Crews will be setting up additional structure protection measures around homes as far west as Mile 48.

Security personnel are being ordered to patrol the area to protect vacant cabins and homes due to the evacuation.



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