BLM AFS Smokejumpers, water-scoopers keep busy on Western Alaska fires

The BLM Alaska Fire Service Galena Zone responded to several new fires in Western Alaska the past few days. After successfully suppressing one fire near Unalakleet on Sunday, smokejumpers and water-scooping Fire Boss aircraft worked on two fires Monday – the Darby Mountains Fire (#216) about 15 miles northwest of Koyuk and the Lake Minakokosa Fire (#221) about 50 miles east of Kobuk.

Graphic showing Fire Boss aircraft dropping water and Alaska smokejumpers during a training jump.
File photo of Fire Boss aircraft and Alaska Smokejumpers.

For the second day in a row, BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers and water-scooping aircraft were able to catch a fire burning in the Norton Sound area. A local resident reported the Darby Mountains Fire at about 10:30 a.m. By the time a BLM Alaska Fire Service aircraft flew over it, it had burned an estimated 10 acres and moving through mostly tundra with some spruce. No structures were immediately threatened. Smokejumpers and the water-scooping Fire Boss airplanes prepositioned in Galena to respond to fires in Western Alaska were ordered to respond. By about 5:30 p.m., smokejumpers reported the fire was contained at 20 acres and they were starting to mop up hotspots with the plan to demobilize Tuesday.

The following night, the same two Fire Boss aircraft and eight different smokejumpers were able to save a cabin under construction from the Lake Minakokosa Fire burning on the north end of the lake its named after. The fire was reported at 5:15 p.m. today. An BLM AFS aircraft was first sent first to size up the report and called for smokejumpers and two Fire Boss aircraft to suppress the fire. At that time, the fire was estimated to be 10 acres and burning in tundra with sparse black spruce. The smokejumpers were flying to Dahl Creek in the Kobuk Valley for prepositioning when they were diverted to the fire. They had finished up work at the South River Hills Fire northwest of Unalakleet today after they, aided by the same two Fire Boss airplanes and a helicopter dropping buckets of water on the fire, contained it by 11 p.m. Sunday. By 8 p.m., the smokejumpers reported the fire was active on all edges and was running with some isolated torching present. It was estimated to be somewhere between 10 and 20 acres. The smokejumpers and aircraft will continue to work toward fire containment.

The Darby Mountains Fire is lightning caused, however, the cause of the Lake Minakokosa Fire has yet to be determined.

The Galena Zone is also monitoring the North River Fire (#218) burning in a limited management option area about 80 miles west of Galena. The fire was estimated at 400 acres and 90 percent active with creeping, backing and torching in tundra and black spruce. It is not immediately threatening any structures or other values.

For more information, contact BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at eipsen@blm.gov or (907)356-5510.

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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