Fire managers with the Alaska Division of Forestry on Tuesday reported at least five new lightning-caused wildfires in the Southwest Area around McGrath and are anticipating more new starts to pop up as a result of lightning activity the past two days.
Three of the new fires were staffed with firefighting personnel while the remaining two fires are in Limited protection areas and will be monitored aggressively with aircraft to ensure they don’t pose a risk or threat.
The three fires that received attention on Tuesday were the Winter Trail Fire (#148) near Takotna; the Molybdenum Mountain Fire (#139) approximately 130 miles southeast of McGrath; and the Devils Elbow Fire (#141) approximately 65 miles southwest of McGrath.
The Molybdenum Mountain Fire is in a Modified protection area on Bureau of Land Management land and is estimated at 100 acres. Eight smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service were dispatched to engage the fire. The closest communities are Chuathbaluk 20 miles to the south and Crooked Creek 27 miles to the east. Additional resources will be added to the suppression lineup on Wednesday in the form of two crews and a helicopter to shuttle firefighters and supplies, as well as perform bucket work.
The Winter Trail Fire was reported as an estimated 2-acre fire at approximately 3:30 p.m. The fire is in a Full protection area and is located along the Takotna River about 7 miles from the community of Takotna. A helitack load of four firefighters was dispatched to engage the fire and the helicopter supplemented efforts on the ground by performing multiple water drops.
The Devils Elbow Fire (#141) was detected by modis satellite Tuesday morning. An aerial reconnaissance estimated the fire at 3 acres with minimal fire activity in a Limited protection area. However, fire activity increased later in the day and the fire grew to an estimated 30 acres. An air tanker from Palmer was dispatched at around 6:30 p.m. to drop retardant around a communications repeater on a mountain top one-half mile away. The only other values at risk are Native allotments approximately 5 and 8 miles from the fire and multiple cabins 6 miles away. The closest community is Stony River 21 miles to the south on the Kuskokwim River.
The Trimokish Hills Fire (#140) was the biggest of the five new fires in the Southwest Area at an estimated 700 acres. It is located approximately 53 miles southeast of McGrath and about 3 miles southeast of the the Khuchaynik Creek Fire. An aerial reconnaissance showed that it was 50 percent active and burning in tundra and broken black spruce. No action was taken and fire will be monitored by air.
The Khuchaynik Creek Fire (#138) was also detected my modis satellite early Monday morning and was confirmed by Alaska State Troopers flying over the fire. The fire is approximately 50 miles southeast of McGrath and 3 miles northwest of the Trimokish Hills Fire. The fire is estimated at 35 acres near the foothills of the Alaska Range and Khuchaynik Creek. The fire plots in a Limited protection area approximately 8 miles west of Silver Tip Guide Camp, which has a runway and multiple structures but is located on the east side of Khuchaynik Creek. No action was taken and fire will be monitored by air.
The Southwest Area forestry office in McGrath appreciates reports from the public regarding fire activity and will be conducting detection flights to look for other new fires in the area. To report new fires in the Southwest Area, call 907-524-3010. For information about current fires in the Southwest Area, call 907-715-9213 or 907-761-6233.