BLM AFS smokejumpers, aircraft kept busy by west coast fires

A fire burning outside the Stebbins dump and another burning on the tundra 29 miles to the south kept BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers busy throughout most of Friday night and a good portion of Saturday morning. Instead of settling down as expected due to humidity levels on the Norton Sound coast, the Romanoff Fire (#234) remained active throughout the night and was estimated at 2,500 acres by Saturday afternoon. Three aircraft, including two water-scooping Fire Boss airplanes, and a load of smokejumpers initially worked on the fire burning in tundra of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge on the south side of Point Romanof Friday. Another load of eight smokejumpers was on its way later, but was rerouted after BLM AFS Galena Zone dispatch received a call from Alaska State Troopers at 10:20 p.m. reporting a fire had escaped the Stebbins dump. The airplanes were also diverted to Stebbins to drop water on the fire that was burning about a half mile from the village. Due to hazardous material inside the dump, smokejumpers concentrated on the fire that escaped. The fire was estimated at six acres with a half an acre within the dump perimeter. With the help of the water scoopers, smokejumpers were able to get a line constructed around the fire by 2:30 a.m. to stop the spread of the fire. There was still a fair amount of smoke coming from the northern side and a heat coming from the south and east edge this morning. Six emergency firefighters from the Grayling village crew were taken off the Deadmans Slough Fire (#162) burning near Anvik since June 4 and flown to Stebbins to replace six smokejumpers that were shuttled by a helicopter to the Romanoff Fire. Firefighters are expected to staff the Stebbins Dump Fire (#238) another day or two to make sure the escaped wildfire it out.

Meanwhile, a third load of eight smokejumpers joined the suppression efforts on the Romanoff Fire this afternoon. The two Fire Boss airplanes, each capable to dumping 800 gallons of water on the fire at a time, also resumed work on the fire that is slowing burning east from its point of origin on the coast of the Norton Sound. There are no structures in the area, but the fire has burned through Native allotments within the refuge boundary. Fire management officials report the fire is hung up on a creek on the southeast side. To the east are areas burned by a cluster of early June fires, including the Kogok 3 Fire (#192). This fire burned approximately 7,074 acres and was put in monitored status after wildland firefighters finished work there June 10. 

The Galena Zone, which covers the western slice of Alaska from the Yukon River north to the North Slope, continues to be more active than other BLM Alaska Fire Service Fire Management Zones. Both the Tanana Zone and the Upper Yukon Zone have been flying detection flights after lightning cut a diagonal path across Alaska yesterday reaching from the lower Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to north of Arctic Village in the upper northeast corner of the state. As of 3 p.m. Saturday, there were only three other new fires reported for the rest of BLM AFS suppression areas – two in limited protection areas and another on military training area that BLM AFS Military Zone personnel were unable to locate during a fly over of the range Friday.

For more information, contact BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510 or by email eipsen@blm.gov.

About BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (AFS) located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, provides wildland fire suppression services for over 244 million acres of Department of the Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska. In addition, AFS has other statewide responsibilities that include: interpretation of fire management policy; oversight of the BLM Alaska Aviation program; fuels management projects; and operating and maintaining advanced communication and computer systems such as the Alaska Lightning Detection System. AFS also maintains a National Incident Support Cache with a $10 million inventory. The Alaska Fire Service provides wildland fire suppression services for America’s “Last Frontier” on an interagency basis with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Military in Alaska.

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