Firefighters working to contain wildfires near Nikolai and Bethel

The Alaska Division of Forestry’s McGrath office responded to two new lightning-caused fires in Southwest Alaska on Thursday, one near Nikolai and one near Bethel.

The Scow Harry Creek Fire (#243) was reported by a resident in the village of Nikolai at around 5 p.m. The fire was located in a Full protection area. Helitack from McGrath responded and found a 10-acre fire approximately 14 miles north of Nikolai and 40 miles northeast of McGrath. The fire was burning in spruce and tundra with an 80 percent active perimeter and growing.

Eight smokejumpers positioned in McGrath responded to the fire, as well as two water-scooping aircraft from McGrath and two water-scoopers from Fairbanks, that were in McGrath and air tankers based in Palmer and Fairbanks. Supported by water and retardant drops, firefighters were able to contain the fire to 19 acres.

The White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew based in Fairbanks was flown to the fire Friday afternoon to take over suppression efforts while six smokejumpers and the McGrath helitack squad were released to be available for initial attack on other fires. The White Mountain crew, along with the two remaining smokejumpers, will be working to secure the perimeter of the fire over the next two or three days.

An aerial photo of the 80-acre Kisarlik River Fire (#245) approximately 30 miles west of Bethel taken on Thursday, June 13, 2019. Alaska Division of Forestry photo

Meanwhile, the Kisarlik River Fire (#245) was reported at 8:45 p.m. approximately 30 miles northeast of Bethel. Air attack personnel flew over the fire and sized it up as 80 acres with a 100 percent active perimeter. The fire was smoldering and creeping in tundra.

Six smokejumpers from McGrath were deployed on the fire just after 11 p.m. Once on the ground, smokejumpers reported that the tundra was proving resistant to control and the fire was growing to the east. The west flank of the fire was contained by water bodies but the interior and northeast flank were holding heat in peat banks along a river. Firefighters set up pumps and hose to help extinguish hot spots. The plan was for smokejumpers to remain on the fire until Saturday before being replaced by a crew.

Another fire, the Nunavakpak Lake Fire (#244), was reported approximately 33 miles west of Bethel at around 7:30 p.m. Air attack personnel sized up the fire at 15 acres with a 90 percent active perimeter. Fire behavior included smoldering, creeping and backing. The fire was reported to be spreading to the west.

The fire was located in a Full protection area but due to higher priority fires, limited resources and the amount of water surrounding the fire, no action was taken on the fire and fire managers planned to re-evaluate the fire Friday.

In the past six days, 21 fires have been started by lightning strikes in DOF’s Southwest protection area and there are currently 21 active fires in the area. Only three of those fires are currently staffed with firefighters. Most of the others are burning in Limited protection areas and are being monitored because they do not pose an immediate threat. Two other fires were declared out on Thursday. Because of the high number of remote fires and limited resources statewide, fire managers have had to prioritize which fires they will take action on.

As of 6:30 p.m. Friday, no new fires had been reported in McGrath.

Here is a rundown of the other active fires in the Southwest Area around McGrath, Dillingham and Bethel:

Southwest Area – Alaska Division of Forestry staffed 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. Sixteen personnel spent Thursday gridding the fire for hot spots 10 feet in from the perimeter. Initial attack squads who had completed work on two other nearby fires were shuttled in to the fire to replace six smokejumpers that were released so they could be available for initial attack on other fires. The perimeter of the fire was holding but the interior of the fire was still exhibiting substantial heat. There was some torching at the head of the fire and due to the depth the fire was burning, the tentative plan is to keep personnel on the fire for approximately six more days.

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.

  • Eek Lake Fire (#241) – (1.5 acres). Located in a Full protection area approximately 17 miles southeast of Bethel. Reported on June 12. The fire was flown on Thursday and no smoke or fire activity was observed.
  • Little Kasigluk Fire (#240) – (500 acres). Located 36 miles east of Bethel in a Limited protection area. No resources threatened.
  • Long Lake Fire (#239) – (2.6 acre). Located in a Full protection area approximately 135 miles northeast of Dillingham and 14 miles north of the village of Nondalton. No resources immediately threatened.
  • Steve Fire (#238) – (2 acres). Located in a Limited protection area approximately 70 miles southeast of Bethel. No resources threatened.
  • Tutna Lake Fire (#229) – (10 acres). Located in a Limited protection area approximately 140 miles northeast of Dillingham. No resources threatened.
  • Bakbuk Creek Fire (#227) – (900 acres). Located in a Limited protection area approximately 165 miles southwest of McGrath. No resources threatened.
  • Shoeleather Creek Fire (#226) – (150 acres). Located in a Limited protection area approximately 80 miles south of McGrath. Fire was flown on Thursday and no smoke or fire activity was observed.
  • Dishna River Fire (#210) – (25 acres) Located in a Limited protection area 55 miles northwest of McGrath. Fire was flown on Thursday and no smoke or fire activity was observed.
  • Kulukak River Fire (#204) – (6.3 acres) Located in a Limited protection area approximately 35 northwest of Dillingham in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. No resources threatened.
  • Buchia Ridge (#203) – (20 acres) Located in a Limited protection area approximately 35 miles west of Dillingham in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. No resources threatened.
  • Kipchuk Fire (#198) – (231 acres). Located in a Limited protection area 45 miles south of Aniak. The fire was flown on Thursday and no activity was observed.
  • Dollar Creek Fire (#193) – (0.1 acres) Located in a Modified protection area approximately 30 miles west of McGrath. The fire was flown on Thursday and no activity was observed.
  • Little East Fork Fire (#192) – (150 acres) Located in a Limited protection area approximately 45 miles southwest of McGrath. The fire was flown on Thursday and no smoke or fire activity was observed.
  • Buzzard Peak Fire (#176) – (7.8 acres) Located in a Modified protection area approximately 40 miles northwest of Dillingham. No resources threatened.
  • Ongivinuck River Fire (#175) – (2198 acres) Located in a Limited protection area approximately 44 miles northeast of Dillingham in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. No resources immediately threatened.
  • Old Grouch Top Fire (#174) – (1,075 acres) Located in a Modified protection area approximately 40 miles northwest of McGrath. The fire was flown on Thursday and it was reported to be 50% active with creeping, smoldering and 3- to 5-foot flame lengths. The remained on the west side of the Dishna River and no resources are threatened.
  • Hurst Fire (#169) – (375 acres) Located in a Limited protection area 38 miles west of McGrath. Fire was flown on Thursday and no smoke or fire activity was observed.

Southwest Area – Alaska Division of Forestry fires declared out:

  • 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. Fire personnel completed a green grid of the fire and declared the fire out at 1:40 p.m. Thursday. All personnel were demobilized.
  • Naku Peak Fire (#236) – (30 acres). Located in a Modified protection area approximately 85 miles east of Dillingham. Fire personnel did a final grid on the fire, finding no smoke or heat. The fire was declared out at 4 p.m. Thursday and all personnel were demobilized.

 

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.

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