Wildland firefighters are working to contain and mop up an 80-acre wildfire reported Friday afternoon in western Alaska near the village of Napaimute on the Kuskokwim River.
The Kolmakof River Fire was reported by local residents and passing aircraft at approximately 4:40 p.m. as a 5-acre wildfire burning on the north bank of the river about 3 miles west of the village. The fire was reportedly burning in tundra, black spruce and mixed hardwoods with a 100 percent active perimeter and 15-foot flame lengths. Multiple structures at fish camps on the north bank of the Kuskokwim River were reportedly threatened by the fire.
Five firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry’s McGrath base were flown by helicopter to engage the fire while a load of eight smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service that were prepositioned in the village of Galena were also deployed to the fire.
By the time firefighters arrived on scene at approximately 6 p.m., the fire had grown to an estimated 45 acres and two air tankers – one from Palmer and one from Fairbanks – were requested to drop retardant around the fire to slow its spread.
The helicopter was used for water drops while firefighters on the ground began to put a containment line around the west flank of the fire closest to the structures. Multiple loads of retardant were dropped around the perimeter of the fire to keep it from growing while firefighters worked late into the night to ensure the containment line around the perimeter would hold. At the end of shift, the fire had grown to an estimated 80 acres but was showing minimal activity.
A 20-person Type 2 hand crew was ordered to mobilize to the fire today and will work with smokejumpers to reinforce the containment line around the fire and begin mop-up operations, which will likely take 2-3 days. The fire is expected to receive rain today.
The fire is believed to have been human caused but the specific cause is under investigation.