Shovel Creek fire forces evacuations near Fairbanks - Must Read Alaska
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Shovel Creek fire forces evacuations near Fairbanks

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Residents of two subdivisions near the Shovel Creek Fire northwest of Fairbanks were advised to evacuate just after midnight on Sunday, June 30. Two shelters have been established: Randy Smith Middle School, and the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds, where animals are also welcome.

A Level 3 evacuation means it’s time for residents to go for residents of the Martin and Perfect Perch subdivisions, where there are about 52 structures in an area dominated by black spruce. A Level 3 evacuation means residents should not delay leaving.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Emergency Operations posted this notice on Facebook:

MARTIN AND PERFECT PERCH SUBDIVISIONS have been moved to a Level 3 Evacuation notice which means “GO” Evacuate NOW LEAVE IMMEDIATELY! Danger to your area is current or imminent, and you should evacuate immediately. If you choose to ignore this advisement, you must understand that emergency services may not be available to assist you further. DO NOT delay leaving to gather any belongings or make efforts to protect your home. THIS WILL BE THE LAST NOTICE THAT YOU RECEIVE. Entry to evacuated areas may be denied until conditions are safe.

McCloud and Murphy subdivisions have been moved from a Level 1 to a Level 2 evacuation. A Level 2 evacuation alert means people should be set to evacuate, which includes assembling all the things you will need in the event of an evacuation. Be prepared for a moment’s notice because there is significant danger and likelihood of a Level 3.

The Lincoln Creek subdivision remains in Level 2 Evacuation status. The area of the Chatanika River corridor remains in Level 1 evacuation status.

The fire, which was started by lightning on June 21, is located three miles north of Murphy Dome, about 20 miles northwest of Fairbanks. It grew to 300 acres on the first evening as it burned through continuous stands of black spruce. It’s now over 5,500 acres and smoke from the fire is drifting across the region.

Some 550 firefighting personnel are assigned to this fire, which is not expected to be contained until mid-July. The Division of Forestry has deployed water-scooping aircraft, air retardant tankers and smoke jumpers. On June 24, Incident Commander Norm McDonald took command of the firefighting operation.

A community meeting is scheduled for 6 pm today at Ken Kunkel Community Center, 2645 Goldstream Road. For those unable to attend, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Emergency Operations team will be live streaming the meeting at @FNSBEmergencyOperations on Facebook.

The State firefighters are working in cooperation with the Chena-Goldstream Fire Department, Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Emergency Services, Alaska State Troopers, State Parks, and Division of Forestry.

A temporary flight restriction (TFR) is in place in the area to allow for firefighting safety.


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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Fairbanks is having 80 and 90 degrees, and is choking with wildland smoke from this fire. It should never have happened. The Shovel Creek fire started over two weeks ago with only a half dozen acres being affected. The AFS/BLM “let it burn” policy was enacted because no structures were immediately under threat. Now, the entire Fairbanks community is hacking and coughing. Why didnt this fire get put out IMMEDIATELY? And all of this while the Democrats are pushing for greater woodstove restrictions in Fairbanks? WHERE IS THE FRICKING SANITY?

    • Amen. I lived in the great city of Fairbanks for over 30 years. The “let it burn” philosophy contributes mightily to a wide variety of respiratory problems. It is simply a public health hazard to citizens of a wonderful place, who deserve much better.

    • Mike and Paul, the Shovel Creek Fire is actually on state ground not BLM and protection/fire fighting is DNR state forestry responsibility. They immediately took action on the fire but due to fire resources being stretched extremely thin, they weren’t able to catch the fire. Hopefully they can as they have a type 2 management team in operational control of it now. So before bashing the hard working fire fighters and managers maybe do a little more research. Also get some situational awareness about how much of the rest of the state is burning and how limited resources are. Thanks.

      • Appreciate the corrections, Square. And we certainly are not bashing the firefighters as you suggest. But the policies in place to “let it burn” do not reflect common sense, nor lend consideration to the health of 100,000 persons in the community. Situational awareness starts with foreseeability by the top decision managers at DNR. Your misplaced blame on lack of money and resources is a cop-out, and you know it. Thanks for your work.

        • Mike and Paul…
          Apparently you missed the part where square said: “They immediately took action on the fire but due to fire resources being stretched extremely thin, they weren’t able to catch the fire.”
          It appears that this fire was never left as a “let it burn” fire.
          With over 100 active fires accross the state and another week of dry windy weather ahead many areas are now considered “extreme” for wildfire danger.
          “The state has also suspended burn permits throughout Mat-Su starting Tuesday morning due to high fire danger and multiple wildfires burning across Alaska that are limiting the availability of firefighters and equipment.”

          • This was more than 10 days ago. We watched it burn as a very small fire from our vantage point on the top of Murphy Dome. No retardant strikes. They did very little, knowing it was close to town. They let it burn. Terrible decision by fire managers. Now we can all get sick.

      • So Square, you obviously work for the government. Why don’t the fire retardant bombers dive in and extinguish the fires while they are small?

        • They often are already out fighting fires or assigned to other areas. Lighting strikes are ubiquitous in Interior Alaska and if you don’t catch a fire very early it is no longer small. There is not an unlimited supply of aircraft nor a willingness to pay for the aircraft as you describe them.


          Welcome to Alaska.

    • Mike and Paul are 100% right on. I flew over the Shovel fire 10 days ago in my Super Cub and there was no one on it. Burning alone. I circled around a 10 acre fire. A one-run retardant drop would have extinguished it. On my return from the Brooks a few days later, Shovel appeared to be out of control. I talked with my buddy Mike at the BLM and he told me, “this is how we make money during the summer.” Sick! These effing government liars allowed Shovel to get out of control so they can reap big paychecks.
      Disgusting, and they could care less about air quality in Fairbanks. Government pukes, and they have some nerve to come to this site and lie.

      • Wildland firefighters making money when there are fires. It’s true! Snow plowers only make money when it snows. It’s when something is left undone or unchecked to make a matter worse for $ gain that the sicko part comes in. If this fire was intentionally left to spread for profit, that sounds as criminal as an arsonist. In the same sick vein as the tree huggers that would spike trees to injure/kill (murder) loggers back in the day.

      • Nobody would make money if it was privatized right? You’ve made yourself into a cartoon character.

        • Get back into the propwash, Art. You are so much smoother when you are soaked and all shook up.

          • Why do that when I get such a hoot out of the spectacle you people make when complaining about how the government is both worthless and yet doesn’t do enough.


            Another fun feature are the Eastern cheechakos who don’t understand how big the State is, how much fuel is out there and how limited the resources are to fight fires.


            So much stupid, so little time to belly laugh.

  • Any fire within 50 to 75 miles of a major population center should be doused immediately. The equipment is available and so is the manpower. The consequential price on human health is too great to “let it burn.” The decision makers should have known better. Anything less is pure derilection of responsibility.

  • This summer is starting off a lot similar to the 2015 Wildfire Season (the year of the Sockeye Fire in Willow)…
    It is obvious to local observers that AK is experiencing longer periods without rain and longer periods with temps above 80 which did not seem to occur in the past.
    Climate change not only fuels more fires, but is exasperated by the gases (mainly carbon dioxide) released into our atmosphere from the large and numerous fires across the state…
    “In the Western U.S., climate change is a major driver behind the near doubling in burned area that we’ve experienced over the past 35 years, and has contributed to an increase in the frequency and severity of fires, while lengthening the fire season in some regions.
    Fires also simultaneously aggravate the impact of climate change by releasing huge quantities of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases into our atmosphere.”

    • Steve, don’t forget 2004, the worst ever in Interior Alaska.

  • We went thru the Boundary fire and are in the middle if this one. All I can say is I am amazed at all the resources (human and other) that are in and around my neighborhood. I am thankful for what they are all doing, especially the water truck drivers keeping our “swimming pools” full. I am working on controlling lightning strikes. I’ll get back to you when I figure out who to blame for those!

    • TRUMP, obviously.

      • I obviously did not do enough raking of the Forrest floor! Ha!

  • “It grew to 300 acres on the first evening as it burned through continuous stands of black spruce.”
    What part of “continuous stands of black spruce.” is so hard to understand?
    We can’t go into these thickets during the winter months and thin them out for firewood. Ground would be frozen so the ground wouldn’t suffer lasting damage. Fire danger is minimal. Only obstacle is that it doesn’t fit any agency’s “plans.”

    • It’s now over 5500 acres. How many acres of black spruce are you going to “thin” for “firewood”?


      Have you seen a black spruce? Have you seen the State budget? Both are pretty spindly. Lol.

  • This morning in the Daily Newsminus there are 2 pictures of houses being set up to protect them from the fire. One was moderately cleared the other house had black spruce within 6 feet of the structure. Who would have a large obviously expensive house so close to black spruce. None other than Karl Kassel.

    • Yeah, the former mayor. One termer….then quit. Wonder what else he grows up there in his garden? At least firefighters will get a chance to recreate a bit while clearing his land.

  • As an emergency manager – who has worked every single mass casualty incident in the world from 1995-2011, did search and rescue, major natural disasters (including fires) I have to agree with Mike&Paul. I saw it as it was JUST starting and driving the hubby to the airport. My first comment was ONE DROP – Done!! Two max barring winds and speed of growth.

    I understand how stretched thin the forces are and that’s why it should have been dropped because it would have been one fire less to worry about. I now live in North Pole (medically retired) and have severe severe allergy issues and have had to be quarantined in the basement. I get it – I know how long and hard the fire guys have to work and I pray for them everyday. Now i pray for rain, the safety of the firefighters fighting, the massive amounts of people who are probably flooding the ER due to respiratory issues and other problems brought on by the smoke. But as a trained emergency manager – proactive vs reactive. Now with fires – I get it. But we had a chance to put it out and we missed it.

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