Wet weather slows wildfire burning near Fairbanks

Posted: Monday, June 12, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Rain, cooler temperatures and clouds have slowed the Granite Tors wildfire near here, giving crews a chance to walk the perimeter to assess its potential for roaring back if the wind picks up.

''There's almost no open flames -- just scattered smoke in the black spruce,'' said Kathryn Tietz, initial attack dispatcher for Fairbanks Area Forestry, which is monitoring the blaze.

An out-of-control campfire at the popular Granite Tors trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area started the wildfire, which quickly grew to around 500 acres.

The trail remains closed, although the fire is not threatening any structures.

A soaking rain slowed the fire Saturday, but a dense canopy of leaves is making an assessment difficult, Tietz said.

''If it gets up to go, we need to know how much has been burned,'' she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Most of the fire had been creeping east into the 2-million-acre recreation area, away from the trail and road. But some of the flames had been moving down a ridge toward the trailhead at Mile 39.5 of Chena Hot Springs Road.

Forestry crews were watching that in case it hit a full-suppression zone about a half-mile from the road, where the fire would be fought.

The recreation area is in what the state calls a ''modified-protection zone,'' where most wildfires are allowed to burn in hopes they'll rejuvenate aging habitat.

The burn has jumped the trail in several places, and while rain temporarily has quieted the flames, the fire remains active, the Alaska Division of Forestry said.

''Erratic winds that accompany the afternoon and evening thunderstorms could move the fire quickly in any given direction,'' said Fire Information Officer Pete Buist in a prepared statement. ''Personally, I would not consider it a safe place to hike.''

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