More firefighters join efforts on 700-acre fire north of Russian Mission

More firefighters will join the efforts on a tundra fire burning 17 miles north of Russian Mission after it grew to an estimated 700 acres Tuesday night. The BLM Alaska Fire Service Midnight Sun Interagency Hotshot Crew is mobilizing to help the eight smokejumpers and three aircraft that started working on the Koyukutuk River Fire (#224) this morning. The wind shifted on the fire Tuesday afternoon and pushed the fire south through tundra grass, quickly increasing the number of acres burned by about 500 and pushing it toward populated areas along the Yukon River. There are no structures immediately threatened. The eight smokejumpers furiously worked on the ground while Fire Boss airplanes dropped water to slow the fire’s progress. Other firefighting personnel flew above the fire area coordinating the suppression efforts. All were back at it again Wednesday morning after the fire remained active overnight accounting for additional growth. The fire is still 12-15 northwest of a camp on the Yukon River where there are 80 people, including approximately 40 children, attending a retreat. This lightning-caused fire is also 20 miles northeast of Marshall. The fire is burning 5-1/2 miles northeast of the river where it gets its name and is burning four miles from the border of the Yukon-Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo of the roughly 700-acre Koyukutuk River Fire (#224) burning north of Russian Mission.
The roughly 700-acre Koyukutuk River Fire (#224) is burning north of Russian Mission.

People in Saint Mary’s will see an uptick in firefighters and aircraft while the crew shuttles to the fire. Afterward, helicopter operations will be based in Russian Mission.

Meanwhile the North Star Fire Crew, the BLM AFS training crew, will spend a few days mopping-up the Inglutalik River Fire (#232) near Koyuk after smokejumpers caught it at 80 acres Wednesday morning. The eight smokejumpers will be released after the fire is considered contained and they’ll be replaced by the North Star Crew, tentatively planned for tomorrow afternoon. This will make the smokejumpers available for future initial attack needs on new starts as many areas in Alaska become warmer and drier in the upcoming days. 

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

Map of Koyukutuk River Fire (#224) burning north of Russian River on June 12, 2019.

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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