General Summary of the Chalkyitsik Complex Incident
In mid-July storms passed through the Yukon Flats with thousands of lightning strikes. Drought conditions left the trees and duff layer very dry allowing fires to grow and difficult to contain. The rest of Alaska was also experiencing an extreme fire season and resources were limited. The BLM Alaska Fire Service (AFS) requested the assistance of the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Teams to oversee fires burning east of Chalkyitsik and west of Fort Yukon. The highest priority for fire personnel was to ensure the protection of the Gwich’in village of Chalkyitsik.
Resources such as equipment and personnel have completed their missions and have been transported to Fairbanks for release to their home units. Fire managers have built a plan to support a proactive response should fire activity increase in the weeks and months ahead. The BLM AFS will regularly conduct reconnaissance flights to monitor fire activity and possible growth.
Firefighters protected valuable assets including the villages, cabins and Native allotments by using point protection measures, saw lines around allotments, and nearly 18 miles of controlled containment line from Ohtig to Chahalie Lakes east of Chalkyitsik. Many of these fires will continue to burn, but the intensity will depend on several factors: the increasingly shorter days, the lower angle and intensity of the sun, and the possible onset of cooler, damper weather between dry spells. It will take a significant amount of rain over a long time frame to put fires out completely. Due to extreme drought conditions across the Yukon Flats, pockets of peat may carry fire through the winter. Reconnaissance flights in the spring will be conducted with this possibility in mind.
Residents in the area are asked to remain vigilant both in the short and long term when re-entering areas or allotments that have been impacted by fire activity. The fire has burned underground in many areas of the tundra, into deep duff and through tree root systems. Fire weakened trees can fall with very little wind. White ash on the ground may indicate deep pockets of hot ash where roots and ground vegetation have burned and may continue to burn below ground level. Sever burns may occur by stepping or falling into these pockets of hot ash. Walking through burned areas is not safe.
Chalkyitsik Complex: Tractor Trail 2 Fire (#348), 92,628; Frozen Calf Fire (#367), 240,543 acres; Bearnose Hill Fire (#407), 130,768 acres; Tettjajik Creek Fire (#424), 41,300 acres; Small Timber Lake Fire (#687), 34 acres. The complex total is 505,273 acres.