The Alaska Division of Forestry is actively managing several new and existing wildfires in the Southwest Alaska, many of which are growing in size due to the extended spell of hot, dry weather.
The Tundra Lake Fire (#474) was reported on Wednesday and is burning about 50 miles northwest of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, about 10 miles south of Lime Village. Eight smokejumpers mobilized to the fire at about 3 p.m. to set up pumps, hose lays and construct direct fireline with chainsaws and hand tools. The fire was last reported at about 200 acres and 90 percent active.
The Hidden Creek Fire (#464) was reported on Tuesday and is burning 20 miles northwest of Nikolai in the area of the Nixon Fork Gold Mine. The fire was reported to be 85 acres with a 60 percent active perimeter. Seven smokejumpers based in McGrath were deployed on the fire but helitack was not able to reach the fire due to poor visibility. Water-scooping aircraft were also ordered but were unable to respond due to poor visibility. Due to a lack of essential initial attack resources and poor visibility, objectives were adjusted from full containment to point protection at the mine site. Seven smokejumpers are in place at the mine, setting up pumps, hose lays and sprinkler systems on area structures, which have not been impacted by the fire. The fire was estimated at 300 acres as of Tuesday night.
The Hurst Creek Fire (#352) and Old Grouch Top Fire (#174), both located about 35 miles northwest of McGrath, merged into one fire on Monday and now rank as the largest fire in the state at a combined 336,552 acres. Both were lightning-caused fires, with the Hurst Creek Fire starting on June 22 and Old Grouch Top Fire starting on June 5. They are burning in a limited protection area and are unstaffed. The fire is being monitored by aircraft.
In addition, there are about 10 other unstaffed fires currently being monitored in the Southwest region of the state. Given the large size, remoteness and lack of values near many of these fires, fire managers are prioritizing how to best utilize available firefighters for point protection of cabins, Native allotments and other values at risk. As always, the number one priority is the safety of the public and firefighters.
Red Flag Warnings for high lightning activity are in effect for the Southwest Alaska through Thursday and given the high temperatures, low relative humidity and dry fuels, fire managers are anticipating new starts in the region due to the lightning. Gusty outflow winds from isolated thunderstorms are also a concern.