Smokejumpers, aircraft contain 160-acre fire near Unalakleet

With help from water-dropping aircraft, eight BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers were able to contain a 160-acre fire burning about six miles east of Unalakleet late Sunday night. The South River Hills Fire (#207) was reported by the Unalakleet Fire Chief at about 1 p.m. Sunday. Smokejumpers that were prepositioned in Galena to respond to fires in Western Alaska were quickly dispatched to the fire burning roughly 130 miles away. By the time smokejumpers got over the fire about an hour later, the fire was estimated at 30 acres, but very active. There were multiple cabins and fish camps in the area, however, none were immediately threatened. The nimble Fire Boss aircraft, which look much like crop dusters with floats, and a helicopter with a bucket used to drop water, were also mobilized to help as the fire was burning east through tundra and toward the Unalakleet River and numerous structures and fish camps. The head of the fire ran into a green stringer of trees and slowed the fire down, aiding the suppression efforts. By the time the smokejumpers reported the fire was contained at 11 p.m., it was estimated to have grown to 160 acres. Smokejumpers predict they’ll have the fire mopped up and controlled, allowing them to demobilize later today.

For more information, contact BLM Alaska Fire Service Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at 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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