Suppression efforts knock down fires burning near Lake Minchumina, Wein Lake

Lines of red fire retardant boxed the 60-acre Minchumina Fire (#213) burning near Lake Minchumina Friday evening. Photo by Tim Whitesell, Alaska Division of Forestry

Lines of red fire retardant boxed the 60-acre Minchumina Fire (#213) burning near Lake Minchumina Friday evening. Photo by Tim Whitesell, Alaska Division of Forestry

Aided by retardant and water drops, smokejumpers were able knock down two fires burning 50 miles apart near Lake Minchumina and Wein Lake in Interior Alaska. The Minchumina Fire (#213), burning on the southwest side of the Interior lake was estimated at about 60 acres, and the three-acre Becky Lake Fire (#212), burning on the northwest side of Wein Lake, were knocked down by 8 p.m. Friday evening. Smokejumpers then set upon the task of securing the perimeter.

The Becky Lake Fire (#212) is burning on the northwest side of Wein Lake. Photo by Tim Whitesell, Alaska Division of Forestry

The three-acre Becky Lake Fire (#212) is burning on the northwest side of Wein Lake. Photo by Tim Whitesell, Alaska Division of Forestry

Both fires were spotted by private citizens on the ground. There is a small community on the west bank of Lake Minchumina that includes a post office, however no structures were immediately threatened according to BLM Alaska Fire Service personnel sizing up the fire after it was reported around 4 p.m. Firefighters initially described the fire as running, torching and spotting 500 feet in front of the fire. It was reported as 10 acres, but quickly growing as it burned through a mixture of tundra interspersed with black spruce. The fire was reported shortly after the Becky Lake Fire.

Two water-scooping Fire Boss aircraft, both of the Alaska Division of Forestry (DOF) air retardant tankers and two loads of eight smokejumpers deployed to the area along with a DOF aircraft to help coordinate the airspace above the fires. Smokejumpers reported the air tankers were able to box most of the Minchumina Fire perimeter in with retardant and the two water scoopers worked hard to douse the remaining active section. That allowed the 14 smokejumpers on the ground to get around the fire.

The two Fire Boss airplanes arrived in Alaska from the Lower 48 Friday afternoon to help with the uptick of fires this week. The pilots had just finished their in-briefing at BLM AFS facilities on Fort Wainwright before taking flight to the two fires burning about 150 miles from Fairbanks. Meanwhile, a load of smokejumpers were quickly enroute from where they were prepositioned in McGrath. The two water scoopers first worked on the Becky Lake Fire to stay out of the parachuetting smokejumpers’ airspace. Another load of smokejumpers were soon deployed from Fort Wainwright to the Becky Lake Fire. Two smokejumpers dropped in on the fire while the rest were tasked with joining the suppression efforts on the Minchumina Fire. The two smokejumpers reported at 6 p.m. the Becky Lake Fire was creeping and smoldering. They estimated the fire was 1-3 miles from six structures in the area.

BLM AFS Tanana fire officials are evaluating the need for additional resources on the two fires.

Map showing fires in the area around Lake Minchumina and Wein Lake in the Tanana Zone Fire Management Zone on June 8, 2018.

Map showing fires in the area around Lake Minchumina and Wein Lake in the Tanana Zone Fire Management Zone on June 8, 2018.

Contact BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at eipsen@blm.gov or (907)356-5511/(907)388-2159 for more information.

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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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