WILDFIRE

Orem firefighters helping battle wildfires near popular Alaska national park

Aug 8, 2023, 6:25 AM | Updated: Oct 23, 2023, 12:53 pm

Firefighters work on a fuel break south of Anderson, Alaska, on Monday. Three Orem firefighters wer...

Firefighters work on a fuel break south of Anderson, Alaska, on Monday. Three Orem firefighters were dispatched to the Anderson Complex fires, city officials said Monday. (InciWeb)

(InciWeb)

OREM — Three Orem firefighters are joining more than 200 personnel assigned to a series of wildfires just north of Denali National Park, city officials said Monday.

The three firefighters, all members of the Orem Fire Department wildfire team, will be dispatched to the Anderson Complex fires.

“There are mutual aid agreements between fire departments throughout the country, but it is also part of the code of being a firefighter to go where your assistance is most needed,” Orem city officials wrote on social media Monday. “We wish them safety and a speedy trip as they answer the call for help.”

A storm that brought more than 7,000 ground lightning strikes on July 26 ultimately sparked 11 different fires within close range of each other near Anderson, Alaska, on July 26, according to the Great Basin Incident Management Team 3, which was brought to fight the fires. The agency condensed these into six active fires that make the complex.

Combined, the fires have scorched more than 18,000 acres and remain 0% contained. Close to 250 personnel were assigned to battle the “very active” series of fires, Great Basin Incident Management officials reported Monday. They wrote that firefighters were hoping to establish “control lines” to protect cabins, but thunderstorms forecast this week may cause more concerns on top of above-normal temperatures in the area.

“Fires in the complex are primarily burning in dense black spruce stands,” officials wrote in a report. “Winds fed rapid fire growth on several of the fires within the complex.”

Alaska has faced “dangerous fire-weather conditions” between the hot temperatures and severe thunderstorms, the Washington Post reported on July 28. The newspaper noted that Alaska’s fire season had gotten off to a slow start because of a wet spring and few thunderstorms.

But the final week’s average temperature at Denali National Park ended up more than 8½ degrees above normal, including a high temperature of 84 degrees on July 24, according to National Weather Service data. The first week of August is also 7.6 degrees above normal, showing the change in conditions in Alaska.

Meanwhile, Utah’s fire season remains mostly quiet after a major monsoonal surge last week, freeing up firefighters to help in other parts of the West.

The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands reported Wednesday there have been nearly 500 wildfires that have burned 5,900 acres throughout the state this year. The total number of fires entering August is down about 26% from the same point in 2022 and 43% in 2021.

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Orem firefighters helping battle wildfires near popular Alaska national park