Firefighters contending with rapidly growing wildfire in Southwest Alaska

A wind-driven wildfire in a remote part of Southwest Alaska had grown to as much as 500 acres as of 6 p.m. and the Alaska Division of Forestry had called in smokejumpers and several crews in an effort to contain it.

Two air retardant tankers and eight smokejumpers were doing what they could to slow the spread of the Medfra Fire Sunday afternon until crews from several Southwest villages and Palmer could join the suppression effort. No structures were immediately threatened by the fire.

The fire was called in as a smoke report at 10:25 a.m. approximately 50 miles northeast of McGrath. The fire, which started in an old burn area and spread into an unburned area with fresh fuel, had grown to 1 to 1 ½ acres by the time a helicopter form McGrath arrived on scene less than an hour later to begin dropping buckets of water on the fire.

A load of smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service that were prepositioned in McGrath due to high fire danger were deployed to the fire, which had grown to an estimated 3-5 acres by the time jumpers arrived over the fire at around 1 p.m. By 2 p.m., the fire was estimated at 10 acres and spreading rapidly to the southwest due to high winds and continuous fuel. By 2:50 p.m., the fire was estimated at 50 to 100 acres. The latest report at approximately 6 p.m. was that the fire was 500 acres and growing.

A total of six crews, including two initial attack crews and four Type 2 emergency firefighting crews from the villages of Nikolai, Lower Kalskag, Upper Kalskagn and Nondalton have been ordered to respond to the fire.

Air retardant tankers dropped several loads of retardant around the fire to keep it from spreading and were continuing to drop retardant as of 3:45 p.m.

Another small fire about a mile northwest of the Medra Fire was reported at approximately 3:20 p.m. and a helicopter working on the Medra Fire was diverted to that fire for water drops.

Categories: Active Wildland Fire, AK Fire Info

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