Lightning-caused wildfires keeping firefighters busy in Southwest Alaska

Lightning strikes ignited five new wildfires in the area around Bethel, McGrath and Dillingham on Wednesday, bringing the total number of current active fires in the Southwest Area to 20, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry’s McGrath office.

Firefighters are actively working to suppress three of those fires, two of which are burning in Full protection areas and one that is located in a Modified protection area. Fire managers are in the process of gathering more information on other fires to determine if action will be taken while monitoring several other fires burning in Limited protection areas with no resources threatened.

More lightning is forecast in the area tomorrow and fire managers are anticipating more wildfire activity as a result. Fire managers will be conducting detection flights to search for any new fires that were not found as a result of lightning the last four days.

Here’s a rundown of new and staffed fires in the Southwest Area as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, as well as a list of fires that are being monitored by state forestry:

Southwest Area – Alaska Division of Forestry new fires:

  • Chultina River Fire (#237) – (43 acres). Located in a Full protection area approximately 135 miles northeast of Dillingham and 13 miles north of the village of Nondalton. Eight smokejumpers from Galena were deployed on the fire and reported a 24-acre fire burning in black spruce and tundra. An air tanker was initially requested but later canceled due to favorable weather. Fire had grown to 43 acres by Thursday morning and merged with a smaller fire just to the north. Six smokejumpers were replaced by six firefighters that had been working on the Naku Peak and Round House Mountain fires and two jumpers remained at the fire to assist with suppression. Fire was 85% contained at 1 p.m. Reconnaissance with a drone detected a hot spot 1,000 feet from the main fire and two firefighters hiked to the hot spot to extinguish it.
  • Eek Lake Fire (#241) – (0.3 acres). Located in a Full protection area approximately 17 miles southeast of Bethel. Reported by air attack personnel Wednesday night. Due to time and resource constraints, no action was taken and the fire was re-evaluated Thursday morning. Given the amount of water around the fire, the fact that no resources were threatened, the limited resources available statewide and potential for rain this weekend, the fire was kept in monitor status even though it’s designated in Full protection.
  • Little Kasigluk Fire (#240) – (7 acres). Located 36 miles east of Bethel in a Limited protection area. Fire was reported by DOF air attack personnel at approximately 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Fire was sized up as 5 acres, 90 percent active and running in continuous tundra grasses. The fire was flown later and had grown to 7 acres with a 3% active perimeter. The fire had received some rain, was smoldering and there were no active flames. The fire was placed in monitor status.
  • Long Lake Fire (#239) – (1 acre). Located in a Full protection area approximately 135 miles northeast of Dillingham and 14 miles north of the village of Nondalton. Fire was reported by smokejumper aircraft approximately 1 mile north of the Chulitna River Fire (#237). The fire showed little fire activity and due to time constraints and resource availability, no action was taken Wednesday night. The fire merged with the Chulitna River Fire and firefighters working on that fire were working to suppress both fires.
  • Steve Fire (#238) – (2 acres). Located in a Limited protection area approximately 70 miles southeast of Bethel. Fire was reported in the upper part of the Kanaktok River by a resident in Quinhagak. DOF air attack personnel responded and found a 2-acre fire smoldering and creeping in patchy tundra and hardwoods. No resources were threatened and the area received precipitation. The fire was placed in monitor status.

Southwest Area – Alaska Division of Forestry staffed fires:

  • Round House Mountain Fire (#230) – (2 acres). Located in a Full protection area approximately 145 miles northeast of Dillingham and 6.5 miles southwest of Nondalton. The fire was reported by local residents in Nondalton on Tuesday. Eight firefighters from the McGrath forestry office were shuttled to the fire Wednesday to replace eight smokejumpers were initially deployed on the fire Tuesday. Firefighters completed a grid of the fire it was declared out at 1:40 p.m.Wednesday.
  • Naku Peak Fire (#236) – (30 acres). Located in a Modified protection area approximately 85 miles east of Dillingham. The fire was reported Tuesday night by a private pilot as a one-quarter acre fire burning near the village of Igiugig but due to low spread potential and time restrictions no action was taken. A helitack load of nine firefighters from McGrath were flown to the fire on Wednesday afternoon. The fire was sized up as 30 acres and 100 percent active, burning in tundra grasses. Helicopter water drops were used to assist suppression efforts on the ground. Due to active fire behavior, water-scooping aircraft were requested but were not able to respond. An air tanker was launched from McGrath and another air tanker was diverted to the fire but due to heavy rains over the fire neither tanker dropped any retardant. The fire was called contained and controlled at 9:05 p.m. Wednesday.

Southwest Area – Alaska Division of Forestry monitor fires:

The following fires are in monitor status. Monitoring schedules are based on defined time frames, but are dependent on available resources, and weather conditions. When monitoring occurs, information will be updated.

  • Hurst Fire (#169) – (150 acres)Located 38 miles west of McGrath. No recent smoke or activity was detected when it was last observed by reconnaissance aircraft on June 6. The fire is located in a Limited protection area with no resources threatened.
  • Old Grouch Top Fire (#174) – (300 acres) Located approximately 40 miles northwest of McGrath. The fire was reported on June 5 in a Modified protection area with no resources threatened.
  • Ongivinuck River Fire (#175) – (2198 acres) The lightning-caused fire was reported on June 5 and is located 44 miles northeast of Dillingham. The fire is burning in a Limited protection area on the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. Alaska Division of Forestry and the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge are cooperating extensively to aggressively monitor the activity and progress of this fire and provide updated information to area residents. Although there are several allotments and cabins in the area, none are threatened at this time.  Fire managers estimate that the current weather forecast, terrain and fuels indicate that the fire-spread potential towards cabins located downriver is low. The fire is currently burning in typical tundra fuels and caribou mosses.
  • Buzzard Peak Fire (#176) – (7.8 acres) Located approximately 40 miles northwest of Dillingham. The fire is located in a Modified protection area with no resources threatened.
  • Little East Fork Fire (#192) – (150 acres) Located approximately 45 miles southwest of McGrath. The fire was flown by reconnaissance aircraft and minimal fire activity was observed. This fire is located in a Limited protection area with no resources threatened.
  • Dollar Creek Fire (#193) – (0.1 acres) Located approximately 30 miles of west of McGrath. This fire is located in a Modified protection area and was extinguished by Division of Forestry Firefighters. Currently there are no resources threatened.
  • Kipchuk Fire (#198) – (200 acres) Located 45 miles south of Aniak. This fire is located in a Limited protection area with no resources currently threatened and will be monitored.
  • Buchia Ridge (#203) – (20 acres) Located approximately 35 miles west of Dillingham in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. This fire is located in a Limited protection area with no resources threatened.
  • Kulukak River Fire (#204) – (5 acres) Located approximately 35 northwest of Dillingham in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The fire is burning in a Limited protection area with no resources threatened.
  • Dishna River Fire (#210) – (25 acres) Located 55 miles northwest of McGrath. Fire was discovered by a state forestry detection flight and the fire was reported to be creeping in tundra fuels. The fire is located in a Limited protection area with no values or resources threatened.
  • Tutna Lake Fire (#229) – (10 acres). Located approximately 140 miles northeast of Dillingham. Fire was reported by Division of Forestry air attack personnel as a one-half acre fire in a Limited protection area creeping and running in a mixture of tundra, spruce and caribou moss. The fire was flown again later in the day and was sized up at 10 acres with no resources threatened. The fire was placed in monitor status.
  • Bakbuk Creek Fire (#227) – (500 acres). Located approximately 165 miles southwest of McGrath. Heat from the fire was detected by satellite and the fire was confirmed by air attack personnel. Fire was sized up at 500 acres and burning in continuous fuels with 40-foot flame lengths. The fire is in a Limited protection area with no resources threatened and the fire is in monitor status.
  • Shoeleather Creek Fire (#226) – (100 acres). Located in a Limited protection area approximately 80 miles south of McGrath. Fire was reported by a pilot. Air attack personnel responded and sized the fire up at 100 acres, burning in continuous spruce and hardwoods with 10-foot flame lengths at the head and backing actively towards the west. No resources were threatened and the fire was place in monitor status.

The Southwest Area Forestry office in McGrath appreciates reports from the public regarding fire activity and will be conducting detection flights to look for other new fires in the area. To report new fires in the Southwest Area, call 907-524-3366 (FIRE LINE).  For more infromation call Alaska Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Tim Mowry at 907-356-5511 or visit AKFIREINFO.COM online for current statewide fire information.

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ 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.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: