Smokejumpers work on old fire after it roars back to life

The Khotol Fire burning 14 miles east of Kaltag roared back to life on Tuesday, putting up smoke and prompting fire officials to send 16 smokejumpers to provide protection for a cabin and two Native allotments burning nearby. Photo Courtesy Doug Downes//BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Khotol Fire burning 14 miles east of Kaltag roared back to life on Tuesday, putting up smoke and prompting fire officials to send 16 smokejumpers to provide protection for a nearby cabin and two Native allotments. Photo Courtesy Doug Downes//BLM Alaska Fire Service

Activity on a 1-1/2 month old fire burning 48 miles southeast of Galena picked up recently, prompting BLM Alaska Fire Service officials to send 16 smokejumpers Wednesday to protect a cabin and Native allotments from the Khotol Fire (#183). A load of eight smokejumpers parachuted near a cabin that was about 1.5 mile from the flames while another eight dropped in to protect another allotment. BLM Alaska Fire Service personnel from the Galena Fire Management Zone periodically checked on the lightning-caused fire since it started on June 6. It was allowed to burn because it was burning in a limited protection area on Native corporation land 14 miles east of Kaltag on the opposite side of the Yukon River, wasn’t immediately threatening any known sites of value, and wasn’t exhibiting much fire activity. Fire officials said some check flights didn’t discover any smoke on the fire. However, that changed on Tuesday when after a few days of hot weather drying things out, the fire hit a stand of spruce and jumped a creek that fire officials didn’t expect it to cross. When a plane full of smokejumpers got over the fire on Wednesday, it was estimated to be 514 acres in size and 70 percent active on its perimeter. It was reported as creeping, backing and spotting 100 feet outside its perimeter. It was growing on all sides and burning in a combination of tundra grass, brush and black spruce. Those on the ground are busy setting up structure and allotment protection. The weather will continue to be hot and dry for the remainder of the day and most of Friday with a wetter weather pattern moving in to start the weekend.

Contact BLM Alaska Fire Service Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510 or eipsen@blm.gov for more information.

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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