Despite recent widespread rain that has quelled wildfire activity across much of the state, the Alaska Division of Forestry and BLM Alaska Fire Service continue to staff six fires in southwest and western Alaska.
Alaska Division of Forestry
As of Monday morning, there were still 13 active fires in the Southwest Area between Dillingham and McGrath. Only four of the fires have personnel working on them. The remainder of the fires are being monitored.
The decrease in fire behavior has allowed the 58 personnel working on the 2,675-acre Bell Creek Fire (#161) near the Kuskokwim River village of Crooked Creek 110 miles southwest of McGrath to take a more direct attack after spending the last several days focused on structure protection in the village.
Two initial attack crews on Sunday started gridding the fire for hot spots on the north and east sides of the ridgeline the fire had been backing down within two miles of the village. Firefighters found several spots with significant heat but no smoke was observed. The two crews made it approximately 1 ¼ miles around the fireline, gridding 300 feet in from the perimeter. Firefighters will continue to grid for and extinguish hot spots today.
Forty-three personnel remain on the 16,746-acre Pitka Fork Fire (#160) approximately 60 miles east of McGrath. The fire has not received as much precipitation as other fires in the area and firefighters are focusing their efforts on protecting structures along the Windy River, Sheep Creek and on a lake in the area. Their work includes mopping up around cabins where burnouts were conducted and plumbing structures with pumps, hoses and sprinklers. Crews are also doing saw work around structures to remove fuels. Fire personnel were pulled off the line midday on Saturday for a few hours due to sustained high winds, severe dust and falling trees.
Twenty firefighters were demobilized Monday from the 13,924 Ball Creek Fire (#164) approximately 75 miles southwest of McGrath after completing a structure protection plan to protect structures in the historic mining site of Flat, which is 8 miles east of the fire. On Saturday, part of the Nondalton #2 Type 2 Crew spent the day trimming clearing brush around structures while the rest of the crew completed structure assessment and prioritized structures for protection. Personnel will be demobilized from the fire today.
The 19 personnel on the 42-acre Spruce Creek Fire (#155) 30 miles west of McGrath continued to grid and mop up 300 feet in from the perimeter. The crew will be demobilized today or tomorrow when gridding is complete.
BLM Alaska Fire Service
Of the 52,360 acres burned in BLM Alaska Fire Service’s suppression areas covering the northern half of the state since the start of the year, 51,875 fall within the Galena Zone. Only two of the 27 active fires remain staffed in the Galena Zone that makes up the western slice of Alaska starting from St. Mary’s and stretching to the North Slope. The rest are in monitor status and were either burning in a limited suppression area or considered contained thanks in part to cooler weather, scattered rains and cloud cover over the area the past few days.
The around 70 people staffing the Deadmans Slough Fire (#162) burning within two miles of Anvik continue mopping up hot spots. Two Type 2 Emergency Firefighting crews out of Grayling and Mountain Village had gridded 50-100 feet in from different sections of the line while the Chena Interagency Hotshot Crew work where the fire slopped over a slough. This lightning-caused fire has held steady at 358-acres for the past few days.
Wildland firefighters are trying to demobilize from 13,455-acre Toik Hill Fire (#185) burning four miles off the Norton Sound Coast. This fire was considered 70 percent contained Sunday with full containment expected by tomorrow. Thirty-seven people, including 14 smokejumpers and the Midnight Sun Hotshots, are wrapping things up by putting out hot spots. Six hotshots initially split off to put out four nearby fires before joining the rest of the crew on this lightning-caused fire. A low cloud ceiling has hindered efforts to fly people off the fire.