Shovel Creek Fire activity expected to increase

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Rain last Sunday and cooler weather for much of this week gave crews fighting the Shovel Creek Fire a much needed break but the hot dry weather forecast for the weekend is expected to bring more fire activity. Firefighters took advantage of reduced fire activity to strengthen existing fire lines and build a new fire line from Old Murphy Dome Road to Murphy Creek.

Later today crews will begin firing operations to clear out a better containment line for the Martin and Perfect Perch subdivisions. As a precaution the borough added five subdivisions to a 'Level 1: Ready' evacuation notice and one to a 'Level 2: Set' status.

The Drouin, Hardluck, Moose Mountain, Cody Jones and Hattie Creek subdivisions made up of 637 structures are now under a Level 1 status, bringing the total number of structures in a READY status to 741. The Vancouver subdivision was placed under a Level 2 status for a total of 180 structures in a SET status.

Officials emphasized that a Level 1 does not mean they need to leave, just that they want residents to prepare their properties by clearing trees and possible fuels away from structures and making sure they have a plan to move any valuables from their homes should they need to.

52 structures in the Martin and Perfect Perch subdivisions remain under 'Level 3: Go' orders.

According to Information Officer Kale Casey, there has been no fire movement in the last five days.

Even though the fire has been mostly inactive, information officer Jacob Welsh said that the terrain the fire is in holds fire for a long time and makes it really difficult to put out.

"The heat stays in the duff layer, continues to burn and smolder until conditions are right, and then it can flare up into actual flames," Welsh said. Adding that "in the closed canopy black spruce, it's more protected sheltered from the rain, so those areas will retain more heat. Especially down in the Murphy Creek drainage and the Blueberry Creek drainage."

Officials expect this will be the case with the fire over the weekend.