Haystack Subdivision residents return home after Lost Horse Creek Fire calms down

Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 9:12 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As thunderstorms have rolled into the interior along with dense smoke, fire activity at the Lost Horse Creek Fire has calmed down enough to allow residents to return to their properties.

“Currently, the Lost Horse Creek Fire is at 8,200 acres. The weather we’ve had the last couple days has helped us,” said Sarah Gracey, a public information officer for the Alaska Incident Management Team. “We’ve had a lot of cloud cover, so some of the large growth that could’ve happened under sunny conditions actually has not happened.” The darkened skies, caused by rain and smoke has helped the crews come up with and execute suppression strategies that are keeping the fire at bay.

Prior to the new weather, the flames had spread, forcing evacuations in the Haystack Subdivision and western portions of the White Mountains National Recreation Area.

Helping prevent further spread of the flames is “a dozer line that runs north of the Haystack Subdivision and we have bulldozed a line and we’ve reinforced it with fire retardant and water hose lays,” said Gracey. The dozer line prevents spread by creating a gap in the fuels. It also allows crews to get in closer to the flames. In addition to the dozer line, the management team is looking at putting in a contingency line to the east of the Elliot Highway. The push for the contingency line has a lot to do with protecting the road way and structures in the area. In order to create the contingency line, “we’re going to be looking at getting some masticators in and those masticators are large pieces of equipment that basically bunch and fell the vegetation and we’re doing that because those are areas that were not going to be able to get bulldozers in,” said Gracey.

“Driving is one of the biggest hazards that wildland firefighters face,” Gracey said. This presents a challenge for the crews that will be working on the contingency line as they’ll be bringing in lot’s of heavy equipment. In order to help make the roads safer, drivers should always have their headlights on in areas with dense smoke to improve visibility. They should also reduce their speed.

While efforts to prevent further spread are already underway, the wetter weather has helped dampen the flames, allowing a change of evacuation status. On Aug. 8, the status for the Haystack Subdivision changed from a level 3 “go” status to a level 2 “set” status. This means that residents can once again return to their homes, but they must remain prepared to evacuate again.