FAIRBANKS - Smoke so thick that even firefighting aircraft couldn't do their work layered the middle and western Tanana Valley on Sunday as high temperatures across the region sent existing wildfires racing across the landscape.
Meanwhile, a new fire near Arctic Circle Hot Springs, ignited by lightning, was reported Saturday and seen burning near Medicine Lake.
By Sunday evening the fire had grown to 1,200 acres and was burning east of the Circle Hot Springs Road and south of the Steese Highway.
"If it went in either of those two directions it could become a problem," Andy Williams, spokesman for the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
The blaze was about four miles northeast of Arctic Circle Hot Springs Resort.
A fire crew from Fort Yukon was headed to the fire to replace eight smoke jumpers sent in on Saturday.
The smoke that covered the Fairbanks area Sunday came mostly from the Geskakmina Lake fire, which had grown to 118,500. Smoke kept fire crews from flying into the area, south of Manley Hot Springs, so a boat was used to ferry in personnel to protect cabins on the Kantishna River.
The lightning-caused fire started June 8. Boats were also used to move crews to the 21,700-acre North Fork fire, which again has moved to within two miles of the village of Medfra. Those crews joined others already at the scene in setting up hose, pumps and sprinkler systems to protect buildings from the fire, which lightning ignited on July 17. A fire management team has been set up at the Medfra airstrip.
"We do quite a bit (by boat). Sometimes it's the easiest and it's cheaper," Williams said.
Crews were also working on the 76,700-acre Colorado Creek fire, 50 miles north of McGrath.