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EDM Wednesday Briefing: Wildfire Continues to Burn in Alaska

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Emergency and disaster management briefing for June 10, 2020: Severe weather may be on tap for areas around the Great Lakes and into the Northeast; American Airlines announced it will bring 141 aircraft out of storage to return to service in July; drone activity near the south perimeter of the Bighorn Fire jeopardized firefighting crews in the air and on the ground; in a joint effort, the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy have seized 30,000 pounds of illegal drugs since April; the deadline to apply for federal disaster assistance is quickly approaching for residents of Bradley and Hamilton counties in Tennessee; lightning ignited two wildfires in eastern Arizona in the San Carlos Apache reservation; EMTs facing protests during the coronavirus outbreak have been navigating unchartered waters; and the Islom Creek Fire continues to burn near the Dalton Highway, south of the Yukon River in Alaska.

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1) Remnants from Tropical Storm Cristobal reached Wisconsin overnight Tuesday and merged with another storm. The merge increased potential chances for severe weather in the Great Lakes and the Northeast through Wednesday night. Storms on Wednesday are likely to bring high, gusty winds and locally heavy rainfall, with a chance of hail and a risk of tornadoes.

2) As the economy recovers from the coronavirus lockdown and air travel demand increases, American Airlines announced it will bring 141 aircraft out of storage. The return to air travel has occurred faster than anticipated, prompting the carrier to boost routes beginning in July. American joins Delta and United Airlines in bringing aircraft out of storage as air travel demands, primarily for leisure travel, will nearly double in July.

3) On Monday afternoon, drone activity occurred near the south perimeter of the Bighorn Fire burning in Arizona, jeopardizing firefighting crews in the air and on the ground. This is at least the second time that drone activity has occurred in conjunction with this fire, where a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over the wildfire has been in place since the fire began. The wildfire continues to burn toward the northeast in steep, rugged terrain in the Pusch Wilderness of the Coronado National Forest, challenging firefighters as they work to contain the blaze.

4) Following an announcement by the Trump administration in April regarding greater counter-narcotic measures in the Western Hemisphere, 30,000 pounds of illegal drugs were confiscated at sea. In a joint effort between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Navy, the drugs were confiscated in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, off the coasts of Central and South America and Mexico and in the Caribbean Sea. The confiscated drugs included 23,000 pounds of cocaine and 6,900 pounds of marijuana, which were prevented from entering the United States.

5) Residents in two counties in Tennessee are approaching their deadline to apply for federal assistance after severe weather spawned several tornadoes on Easter Sunday night. Residents of Bradley and Hamilton counties that experienced damage due to the severe weather and tornadoes on June 12-13 have until June 23 to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) benefits. Residents are encouraged to register online, either by downloading the FEMA app, visiting, or calling by phone. Economic injury assistance is also available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) through their low-interest disaster loan assistance program, where the deadline for applying is January 25, 2021.

6) Lightning on Friday ignited the Blue River Fire and the Dry Lake Fire in the upper elevations of the San Carlos Apache reservation in eastern Arizona. Dry and windy conditions, along with high temperatures, caused the wildfires to spread rapidly. The Blue River Fire has now scorched more than 18,000 acres, while the Dry Lake Fire has consumed nearly 3,500 acres. Due to the complex nature of both fires, a Central West Zone Type 3 Incident Management Team took control of firefighting efforts on June 8.

7) EMTs facing protests amid the coronavirus outbreak have been navigating unchartered waters, noted some officials. The ability of EMTs to assist those who where hurt or needing help during the protests was complicated by multiple concerns, including COVID-19, fatigue among overworked employees due to the pandemic, and widespread efforts to ensure the safety of EMTs and firefighters. According to reports, not only were EMTs exposed to high-risk “hot zones” of protesters, they also needed to ensure they had personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand or available in case they encountered a person who was ill and could potentially have COVID-19.

8) Area lightning on Friday ignited a wildfire in Alaska that has grown exponentially amid warm and dry weather in the region. The Isom Creek Fire, now being commanded by a Type 2 Alaska Incident Management Black Team, has scorched nearly 5,000 acres and is burning near the Dalton Highway, south of the Yukon River. Officials are asking everyone traveling along the highway to use extreme caution due to firefighter activity and to use their headlights due to low visibility. A heavy attack by air tankers, including water-scooping aircraft, air retardant tankers, and helicopters with water-dropping buckets, is being relied upon to support personnel on the ground.


Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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