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Refuges Stay Busy with Fires in Alaska

June 21, 2009

Immersed in a busy fire season, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska has been hit with scattered lightning several times in the last month on the 9 million acre refuge.  Coupled with dry weather conditions, the lightning activity ignited fires across the refuge. Three large fires that started over two weeks ago are staffed with firefighters and continue to burn while a weekend thunderstorm started two new smaller fires.

When fires start in remote locations on the refuge isolated from villages and communities, firefighters manage them to allow fire to burn in areas in which they would naturally have occurred without fire suppression. The objective is to let the fire burn in order to benefit the resources on the landscape such as vegetation for wildlife habitat. When fire threatens public safety or structures, full fire suppression techniques are used to corral the incident.

Weather forecasters predict the hot, dry weather conditions that have been fueling the fires to linger at least another week over the majority of the refuges south of the Brooks Range.  A wet and cool weather pattern has moved into the western and southern portion of the state calming the fires that had been burning in that part of Alaska. Despite some amounts of rain, 72 active fires are burning within the state of Alaska with over 1 million acres having burned so far this year.

Smoky conditions will most likely persist over much of the refuge until there is a significant change in the weather. Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge is the third largest refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System and includes one of the greatest waterfowl breeding areas in North America. It also offers a home to a diversity of wildlife such as beaver, moose, and lynx.

  The Little Black One Fire burns actively in mid-July on the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.  
  The Little Black One Fire burns actively in mid-July on the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.  

 

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Last Updated: 7/21/09