Firefighting personnel are completing mop up work on the only two remaining staffed fires in the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Southwest Area between Dillingham and McGrath. More than dozen wildfires were started by lightning more than a week ago but rain and the work by firefighters have brought them under control.
The 72 personnel assigned to the 2,653-acre Bell Creek Fire, approximately 110 miles southwest of McGrath near the Kuskokwim River village of Crooked Creek, have completed structure protection measures in the village and are now working direct on the fireline. Crews are quickly progressing around the fire’s edge and are finding very little heat. An infrared drone flight is scheduled for today to check for hot spots along the perimeter. The 83-acre reduction in the fire’s estimated size is a result of more accurate mapping. A significant number of personnel will be released from the fire this weekend as it downsizes to a Type 4 organization.
The 16,824-acre Pitka Fork Fire approximately 60 miles east of McGrath received rain on Wednesday afternoon. There are still 41 personnel assigned to the fire, which has been allowed to spread naturally while firefighters have worked to protect structures in the area. Firefighters on Wednesday completed saw line at Sheep Creek. The saw line is needed due to areas of standing water that have so far inhibited fire spread but are expected to dry up later in the summer, no longer providing a natural barrier between the burned perimeter and a thick stand of black spruce. The saw line will allow for a hose lay once the water dries up that could be used to protect structures if the fire gets active again. Tentative demobilization for all personnel is set for tomorrow.
The remaining 10 active fires in the Southwest Area are being monitored by the Division of Forestry to see if fire activity rekindles with a warming and drying trend expected over the next few days.