Lightning increases number of fires on Seward Peninsula to 24 in two days

Smokejumpers were able to catch a handful of new fires after lightning broke out across the Seward Peninsula and ignited 24 new fires in the past two days. Galena Zone personnel aboard a plane watched as thundercells rolled through the middle of the Seward Peninsula Wednesday afternoon, throwing out lightning strikes followed by puffs of smoke from the new fires. Of the 21 new fires on Wednesday, smokejumpers contained five today with two others needing additional work for containment or confinement. Most of the fires are remaining relatively small.

Number of fires on Seward Peninsula increases by 24 in two days

Map of Seward Peninsula with active fires. Click on 6-20-19 Seward Peninsula Fires for PDF version of map.

As of 4:30 p.m. today, there are fewer lightning strikes, mostly located on the western half of the peninsula.

Most of the new starts, including the today’s three new fires, are burning in a limited option area and are not threatening any structures, Native allotments or resources. They were placed in monitor status. However, a cluster of fires near Deering were burning in a modified option area, prompting the deployment of three loads of smokejumpers and four water-scooping aircraft. Two Fire Boss aircraft bounced between fires in this group Wednesday while firefighters aboard an additional plane coordinated the suppression efforts.

Instead of giving the new fires individual names, they are broken into three groups – Kugruk River 1-7 for a cluster of fires near in the center of the peninsula; Kuzitrin River 1-9 for the group near Deering and Candle; and Buckland 1-4 for fires closer to Buckland.

People in the area reported the seven fires near Deering between 3:33 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday. The closest fire is about 10 miles west of Candle and all are 14 or more miles south of Deering. The nine Kugruk River fires near Mary’s Igloo were spotted by Galena Zone personnel aboard the detection flight between 6:25 and 7 p.m. The closest one is about 56 miles north of Nome. The Buckland-area fires were all reported within 10 minutes just after 10:45 p.m. Wednesday by BLM AFS personnel aboard a smokejumper plane. The three new fires burning near the west end of the Seward Peninsula were reported around midday Thursday. Two of the three new fires were considered out with the third being placed in monitor status.

Out of the cluster in the middle of the Seward Peninsula, only the Kuzitrin River 9 Fire (#287) was active Thursday. It was placed in monitor status because it is not immediately placing any values at risk of burning.

Here’s a breakdown of the staffed fires on the Seward Peninsula:

Kugruk River 1 (#270) – Two smokejumpers and two Fire Boss aggressively attacked this fire burning 22 miles southeast of Deering. It has burned 120 acres, which was deemed too large to contain. Because there are no values at risk from the fire, the smokejumpers were pulled and moved to Fire #271. Fire managers are anticipating the fire will get hung up on natural barriers in the area.

Kugruk River 2 (#271) – Two smokejumpers were working hard to keep this fire at 30 acres with six more smokejumpers joining the effort from neighboring fires. The fire is burning deep within peet, has been hard to extinguish. Two Fire Boss aircraft worked the fire this morning and with two more water-scoopers and an air attack airplane requested for this fire today. Six more smokejumpers were moved once they wrap up work on neighboring fires.

Clem Mountain (#291) – At 8 a.m. Thursday, eight smokejumpers contained the 12-acre fire burning about 7 miles east of Buckland. These smokejumpers are demobilizing and will return to Galena where they’ll be available to respond to new fires in Western Alaska.

Kugruk River 7 (#278) – Eight smokejumpers contained the fire at 27 acres this morning. The smokejumpers were demobilize and stage in Deering located 15 miles to north in anticipation of new for new ignitions following Wednesday’s lightning strikes.

Kugruk River 4 (#276) – Two smokejumpers caught this 42 acre fire burning about 14 miles south of Deering. They are mopping up the remaining hot spots in anticipation of demobilizing at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Kugruk River 5 (#275) – Two smokejumpers contained this fire burning 16 miles south of Deering at 13 acres and moved to Fire # 271.

Kugruk River 3 (#274) – Two smokejumpers contained this fire burning 17 miles south of Deering at 21 acres and were moved to Fire #271

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

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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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