Moose Mountain Fire (May 20 2011)
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After a spring with hardly any precipitation, this was a day with red flag fire conditions in the Fairbanks area: 70-75F, very low humidity and winds from the south gusting to ~25mph. You could say that whatever caused ignition out there - which clearly wasn't lightning - it happened in the wrong spot (south facing slope, fires spread more efficiently going uphill) at the wrong time. The fire was discovered at 3:31pm, and the following video starts at 4:51pm.
You could also say, however, that the exact spot and time that this happened was incredibly lucky. In the end no evacuations were necessary and no structures were lost, an outcome that seemed far from granted given the close proximity to a large residential area (see map below) and the extreme fire conditions. Had the fire started a mile farther southwest or had the wind been north - well - just look at the videos and make your own guess what the consequences could have been.
Rough estimate of fire perimeter
Map showing a rough estimate of the fire perimeter and proximity to residential areas. The yellow dot is the approximate location where the fire started.

In the evening winds calmed down, temperatures dropped with humitidy rising accordingly, altogether causing the fire to die down significantly, giving firefighters the upper hand and the opportunity to establish suppression lines along the fire perimeter overnight.
Luckily for Fairbanks residents the wind pushed the heavy smoke from the fire north during the day, changing to west and southwest in the evening and overnight with only little smoke making it to the city limits. Instead of respiratory problems people were treated to a dramatic looking sunset.
Fire activity decreased further overnight, smoldering and creeping with an occasional pocket of fuel bursting in flames. Ground crews (around 125 firefighters) were working to contain the fire all night, though with no aerial support. Activity increased temporarily in the morning as the temperature increased and humidity decreased correspondingly. Thanks to light winds hotspots never got out of control.
Finally, a video that is marred by a focus error, but is nevertheless included because it has a wide angle view of the smoke plume showing how the uprising smoke triggers formation of cumulus clouds. This was also the first camera to be set up (video starts at 4:39pm).
The days following the outbreak of the fire brought favorable weather with low winds. The size of the burn area ended up being appr. 940 acres, and more than 350 personnel worked on controlling the fire and establishing a line around the fire perimeter. Official information on the fire can be found on the InciWeb Incident Information System website. Footage was captured from UAF campus (Geophysical Institute).
In contrast to above dramatic events, here's a normal, peaceful post-fire sunset (May 26) behind Moose Mountain.




Comments:
On May 26 2011 at 8:04PM Max Sands wrote:
On May 25 2011 at 3:43PM Erin wrote: ... better perspective on images

Looks like all the shots were taken from the West Ridge.

Make this juvenile arsonist repair all the hills, never mind how good the sunsets looked.
On May 26 2011 at 6:24PM Kaye Grant wrote:
Wish I could have been there to see this smoke, etc. Beautiful!!
On May 26 2011 at 4:15PM AussieAlaaskan wrote:
Been trying to follow this from the other side of the world - Great coverage! Thanks.
On May 25 2011 at 2:43PM Erin wrote:
The fire was relatively close to our house, if winds had been from the North we would have lost everything. Can you give me a hint as to your location so I can have a better perspective on the images here?
(Reply: UAF Campus, the clearing in the foreground is the Large Animal Research Station.)
On May 25 2011 at 1:34PM monte wrote:
awesome job thanks a better feel for community awareness through you
On May 24 2011 at 1:57PM Lewy wrote:
Thank you for the impressive photography and the information presented. I live on Chena Ridge. Far enough away to feel safe (for the moment) but not complacent.
On May 24 2011 at 9:49AM Patrick wrote:
Great series. I was out of town and missed the action, thanks for posting.
On May 23 2011 at 8:35AM Elisa wrote:
I am out of state, have a cabin in that area and appreciate keeping informed about what is going on in my neighborhood-awsome videos. Thank you so much.
On May 23 2011 at 3:13AM Anonymous wrote:
Thank you for posting your photos of the Moose Mountain fire. It was very nice to see what was going on. (I am traveling and have friends with home near the fire)