June 6, 2016 – A fire burning in Western Alaska is now estimated at 3,200 acres as firefighting resources have settled in to protect a church camp and Native allotments about nine miles from the fire perimeter. After the fire received rain Sunday night to slow things down, the 20-person Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshot Crew will spend the upcoming days fortifying defensible space around the Kuko Retreat Center in the likelihood that the fire will threaten the camp in the future. A medium-sized helicopter and crew is staging in the area to help with logistical support. The BLM Alaska Fire Service threw a lot of resources right after the Kuyukutuk River Fire was reported on June 3. However, the BLM AFS switched gears to protect the camp and nearby Native allotments over weekend after consulting the land owners, Calista Corporation, when the extensive firefighting efforts failed to contain the fire. Hilly lands stand between the fire and nearby Russian Mission, which is still about 15 miles to the north. At one point, there were up to 24 BLM AFS smokejumpers, four water-dropping Fire Boss airplanes and an Alaska Division of Forestry air retardant tanker trying to slow the fire down before Mother Nature helped on Sunday. The fire has been exhibiting a wide range of activity due to burning through mostly black spruce.
It is located in a full protection zone per the Alaska Interagency Wildland Fire Management Plan which states that the Bureau of Land Management will provide wildland fire protection services to Alaska Native regional and village corporation lands under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. However, BLM AFS fire management and Calista land managers weighed risks to firefighter safety and costs when considering prolonged firefighting efforts. Instead, resources are now concentrating on protecting the camp and Native allotments in case the fire decides to get close. The fire is considered zero percent contained.
For more information, contact Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS public affairs specialist at email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)356-5511 or (907)388-2159.