Denali National Park closure continues, but wet weather is helping contain fire

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The Riley Fire is a mosaic of burn intensity levels with many unburned areas and some partially burned trees. In the photo, you can see the firebreak. Photo credit: https://akfireinfo.com

Although rain and humidity have started to tamp down the 388-acre Riley Fire in the Denali National Park and Preserve, which is closed to the public for the seventh day.

Denali National Park is Alaska’s most popular land attraction. The tallest mountain in all of North America, the peak is surrounded by more than 6 million acres of wilderness.

Golden Valley Electric Association crews restored power to Nenana Canyon on Thursday and most businesses in Glitter Gulch are now reopened. For visitors, the gift shops and snack concessions will be as close as they can get to the park itself.

The Riley Fire is now 25% contained. Fire managers said they are confident that the fire will not cross the containment line. Crews are working to extend the containment line by going further into the burned area and extinguishing hot spots.

“Although the fire may not look very active, a deep layer of organic matter, or duff — roots, leaves, needles, and twigs — continues to smolder. The fire has burned in a mosaic pattern. Some areas are burned black, some trees are partially burned, and large areas within the fire perimeter remain unburned. The result is that a tree canopy remains, which can prevent rain from reaching the ground. The recent rain showers have helped with humidity and cooler temperatures, but vegetation, which is fuel, remains dry,” the Alaska Fire Info website explains.

The Riley Fire has 196 personnel assigned as of July 6.

Showers on Thursday and Friday dropped about a quarter of an inch of rain on the fire. More rain is likely for Saturday and Sunday, and could bring totals for the week near half an inch.

It was cool and windy, with gusts of more than 40 mph on Friday, and Saturday is expected to be even windier. Temperatures will remain cool through Sunday, with highs near 60°F and relative humidity above 40%. Warmer and drier weather is predicted to resume early next week.

The evacuation status in the park is unchanged. All Bison Gulch and Antler Ridge hikers, Riley Creek Campground, and all employees housed at the Denali National Park Joint Venture facility, National Park Service Campus Housing, and Admin Camp should evacuate, the fire managers said.

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