State forestry still contending with multiple fires in Southwest Alaska

The Alaska Division of Forestry continues work on containing and monitoring multiple lightning-caused fires in Southwest Alaska.

This photo shows the Ball Creek Fire burning on Monday approximately 75 miles southwest of McGrath. As of Thursday, the fire was estimated at 8,462 acres. Matt Snyder/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry

As of Thursday evening, there were 15 active fires that had burned more than 42,000 acres in the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Southwest Area, which encompasses 88 million acres from McGrath to Dillingham. Seven fires are burning in full/modified protection areas and there are eight fires burning in limited protection areas. Five fires are being staffed and the remainder are being monitored.

Here is the latest rundown on fire activity in Southwest Alaska:

Staffed fires

Bell Creek Fire (#161), 2,100 acres – The highest priority fire currently in Southwest Alaska. It is burning within two miles of the village of Crooked Creek on the Kuskokwim River, approximately 110 miles southwest of McGrath. The fire is backing toward the village. Firefighters have constructed an indirect line and plumbed structures on the north end of the town closest to the fire with pumps, hoses and sprinklers in anticipation of the fire reaching the village. Air tankers were used Wednesday to put retardant down in front of the fire closest to the village in an attempt to slow its progress. The fire perimeter was active again on Thursday, which likely result in an increase in acreage. There are 58 personnel working on the fire, including eight smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service and two initial attack crews from the Division of Forestry.

Pitka Fork Fire (#160), 4,030 acres – Burning 60 miles east of McGrath. The fire was active again on Thursday on the north and east sides.  It is burning in a mix of black spruce, tundra and hardwoods between the Windy River and mountains. Due to better mapping, the fire acreage was reduced by 2,570 acres on Wednesday. Smokejumpers have set up structure protection and completed burnout operations around cabins in the area. A squad of 10 firefighters from the Upper Kalskag Type 2 Crew arrived Wednesday to assist with structure protection objectives and the Gannett Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew was flown into the fire on Thursday to further assist with structure protection. There are now 37 personnel working on the fire.

Spruce Creek Fire (#155), 42 acres – Burning approximately 30 miles west of McGrath. The 18 personnel working on the fire continued to work around the fire on Wednesday, gridding and extinguishing hotspots. A total of 78 hotspots were identified within the 50-foot perimeter. There was one large hotspot with tree torching, roughly 60 feet by 90 feet, that firefighters engaged. The plan for the next operational shift is to do a 100-foot grid in the black and work on saw line. There are 18 personnel working on the fire.

Brown Creek Fire (#157), 45 acres – Burning approximaely 35 miles west of McGrath. Three grids of the fire were completed on Wednesday with four hotspots found. Firefighters continued to grid the fire on Thursday and found additional hotspots. Personnel will work on extinguishing those hotspot on Friday before demobilizing. There are 18 personnel working on the fire.

Black River Fire (#172), 8 acres – Burning 38 miles south of McGrath. A Type 2 Crew was shuttled to the fire on Wednesday and made good progress securing the edge of the fire and mopping up. There was no growth and no resources are threatened at this time. The Type 2 crew will continue to secure the edge and mop up for the next few days.Unstaffed fires.

Kenakuchuk Creek Fire (#146), 1,558 acres – Burning in limited protection approximately 60 miles north of Dillingham. The fire was flown on Wednesday and there was active smoke in some areas.• Tubungaluk Creek Fire (#152), 300 acres – Burning in limited protection approximately 31 miles northeast of Bethel in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Fire perimeter was 5 percent active on Thursday, backing to the west.

Pikmiktalik River Fire (#154), 430 acres – Burning in limited protection approximately 27 miles northeast of Bethel in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The fire was flown Thursday and minimal fire activity was observed. The fire is still burning on the north and south sides.

This photo taken on Tuesday shows the American Creek Fire burning approximately 42 miles west of McGrath. The latest size estimate on Thursday was 12,000 acres. Matt Snyder/Alaska DNR-Division of Forestry

American Creek Fire (#158), 12,000 acres – Burning in limited protection approximately 42 miles west of McGrath. The fire was flown on Thursday and acreage had doubled to 12,000 acres with most growth on the south side. The fire perimeter was 60 percent active. The closest structures to the fire are 4 miles away to the east on the Innoko River.

Little Yetna River Fire (#159), 12,315 acres – Burning in limited protection approximately 100 miles southwest of McGrath. The fire was flown on Thursday and is now estimated at 12,315 acres. No resources are threatened and the fire will continue to be monitored.• Sullivan Creek Fire (#163), 100 acres – Burning in a modified protection area approximately 45 miles east of McGrath. The fire was flown on Thursday and no activity was observed.

Ball Creek Fire (#164), 8,462 acres – Burning in full protection approximately 75 miles southwest of McGrath. The fire was flown Thursday and the perimeter was 75% active with 30-foot flame observed in pockets of spruce. The closest structures to the fire are more than 6 miles to the west and the historical mining community of Flat is 8 miles from the fire. Smoke on the east side of the fire prevented getting a new size estimate but a mapping mission on Wednesday showed a reduction of 1,500 acres. The fire received light precipitation on Thursday.

Paiyun Creek Fire (#174), 1,200 acres – Burning in limited protection approximately 50 miles southeast of Bethel in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The fire was flown Wednesday and was 50% active but no smoke was observed during a flight on Thursday. There are some Native allotments in the area but nothing is immediately threatened.

Coral Creek Fire (#200), 500 acres – The fire was reported Wednesday in limited protection about 245 miles southwest of McGrath in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The fire was 70% active. There are no immediate threats and the fire will be monitored.

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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