Lightning sparks new wildfires in southwest Alaska

A rash of lightning sparked three new wildfires in southwest Alaska on Tuesday, two of which the Alaska Division of Forestry is working to suppress and one that is being monitored.

An aerial photo of the Beaver Creek Fire burning approximately 33 miles west of McGrath. Photo by Matt Snyder/Alaska Division of Forestry

Approximately 3,700 lightning strikes were detected across Alaska on Tuesday, most of which was concentrated in southwest Alaska in a north-south line between Bristol Bay and Bettles. More lightning is forecast in the same area today and fire managers for both the Alaska Division of Forestry and BLM Alaska Fire Service will be on the lookout for new fire starts as a result of lightning strikes.

The 5.5-acre Lonesome Hills Fire (#171) was reported by a passing aircraft just after 3 p.m. Tuesday. The fire is located in a Full protection area approximately 13 miles east of McGrath and 15 miles west of Medfra.

The fire was initially reported as 5 acres, smoldering in black spruce with an 80 percent active perimeter and some isolated tree torching.

Eight smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service that had been prepositioned in Galena in anticipation of lightning activity were deployed to the fire. Smokejumpers arrived on scene at approximately 5 p.m. and were able to secure the perimeter of the fire by 7 p.m. The smokejumpers are currently working to locate water sources to set up pumps and hose to help contain and suppress the fire.

Another load of eight smokejumpers was deployed to the 18-acre Beaver Creek Fire (#173), which was reported around 8 p.m. approximately 33 miles west of McGrath. The fire was discovered by state forestry personnel flying a load of supplies back to McGrath from the Lonesome Hills Fire. The fire was initially estimated at 10 acres with a 25 percent active perimeter in black spruce and tundra. Fire behavior included creeping and smoldering with isolated torching and a moderate spread potential. The fire is located in a Modified protection area and a mining claim was identified approximately 5 miles to the north.

Smokejumpers worked until midnight securing the perimeter of the fire and the fire was mapped at 18 acres. The plan for today is to demobilize the smokejumpers and insert a six-person squad from Shageluk to mop up the fire.

The 150-acre Mt. Hurst Fire is burning approximately 55 miles west of McGrath near the Dishna River. Photo by Matt Snyder/Alaska Division of Forestry

The third fire discovered on Tuesday is the 150-acre Mt. Hurst Fire (#169) burning in a Limited protection area approximately 55 miles west of McGrath. Heat from the fire was detected by satellite and a helicopter from McGrath was dispatched to get eyes on the fire. The fire was initially reported at 5 acres burning in tundra with fingers of spruce trees near the perimeter. Nothing was immediately threatened by the fire at that time and the fire was placed in monitor status. A reconnaissance flight at approximately 6:30 p.m. Tuesday estimated that the fire had grown to 150 acres and fire managers will continue monitoring it from the air.


About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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