Lightning strikes spark dozen new wildfires in Southwest Alaska on Wednesday

The Division of Forestry is actively managing numerous new and existing wildfires in Alaska’s Southwest Area. Twelve new, lightning-caused fire starts were reported in the wake of widespread thunderstorms Wednesday, increasing the number of active fires in the Southwest Area to 29. Red Flag warnings remain in effect for most of Southwest Alaska today for more lightning.

Widespread smoke is preventing air tankers and water-dropping helicopters from attacking many fires, and slowing re-supply missions to firefighters working in remote locations.

Heavy air tankers require 3 miles of visibility to operate. Logistical fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters require at least 1 mile of visibility to operate safely.

“Point protection” is the primary strategy fire managers utilize when facing many large fires and limited firefighting resources. Firefighters across Southwest Alaska are defending cabins, commercial and historical infrastructure, and Native Alaskan allotments of land.

This map shows the location of the approximately 10,000 lightning strikes that were detected in Alaska on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. A dozen new lightning-caused wildfires were reprted in Southwest Alaska on Wednesday.

This map shows the location of the approximately 10,000 lightning strikes that were detected in Alaska on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. A dozen new lightning-caused wildfires were reprted in Southwest Alaska on Wednesday.

The Tundra Lake Fire (#474) was started by lightning on July 10 and is about 50 miles northwest of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and about 10 miles south of Lime Village. Eight smokejumpers are defending a cabin and Native Alaskan allotment near the fire, which is 200 acres in size and 90% active.

The Hidden Creek Fire (#464) began on July 9 and is 20 miles northwest of Nikolai in the area of the Nixon Fork Gold Mine. Seven smokejumpers and 15 firefighters from McGrath 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 cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Hurst Creek Fire (#352) was started by lightning on June 22 and has burned into the Old Grouch Top Fire (#174), another lightning-caused fire that started on June 5. Both fires are now being managed as the Old Grouch Top Fire and are located about 35 miles northwest of McGrath. The Old Grouch Top Fire is currently 251,811 acres and the Hurst Creek Fire is estimated at 84,741 acres. Any new acreage will be addd to the Old Grouch Top Fire. Both fires are burning in limited protection areas and are not staffed but are being monitored by air.

The Snipe Lake Fire was started by lightning on Tuesday in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and is currently estimated at 20 acres. Photo by National Park Service.

The Snipe Lake Fire (#467) was started by lightning on July 9. The unstaffed fire is burning in tundra in the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and is 20 acres in size. The fire is burning in a limited protection area with no known values at risk and will be monitored by air.

The Pit Peak Fire (#481) is unstaffed and burning in black spruce, 35 miles south of Aniak, and 400 acres in size. The fire is burning in a limited protection area with no known values at risk and will be monitored by air.

The Swift Creek Fire (#480) is unstaffed, burning in black spruce, 35 miles south of Aniak, and 150 acres in size. The fire is burning in a limited protection area with no known values at risk and will be monitored by air.

The Chilchitna Headwaters Fire (#476) is unstaffed, burning in black spruce,12 miles northwest of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and 200 acres in size. The fire is burning in a limited protection area with no known values at risk and will be monitored by air.

The Door Creek Fire (#475) was caused by lightning on July 10. The unstaffed fire is 15 miles southwest of Lime Village, burning in black spruce and tundra, 30 acres in size and 100% active. The fire is burning in a limited protection area with no known values at risk and will be monitored by air.

The Stony River Flats Fire (#477) was caused by lightning on July 10. The unstaffed fire is 12 miles northwest of Lime Village, burning in black spruce and tundra, 40 acres in size and 80% active. The fire is burning in a limited protection area but there is a cabin approximately 5 miles from the fire with defensible space around it, and it is not threatened at this time. The fire is being monitored by air.

The Upper Falls Fire (#479) was caused by lightning on July 10. The unstaffed fire is 12 miles north of the Togiak Wildlife Refuge, burning in tundra and brush,15 acres in size and 100% active. The fire is burning in a limited protection area with no known values at risk and will be monitored by air.

The Quicksilver Creek Fire (#478) was caused by lightning on July 10. The unstaffed fire is 15 miles north of the Togiak Wildlife Refuge, burning in tundra and brush, 5 acres in size and 50% active. The fire is burning in a limited protection area with no known values at risk and will be monitored by air.

The McCally Creek Fire (#487) was caused by lightning on July 10. Eight smokejumpers are staffing the fire, establishing an anchor point and working up the flanks with no water source. The fire is burning in tundra and black spruce about two miles southwest of Red Devil.

The Jump Peak Fire (#488) was caused by lightning on July 10. The unstaffed fire is smoldering in black spruce, less than an acre in size, approximately 7 miles northwest of Red Devil. The fire is burning in a modified protection area but due to limited resources and poor visibility no action was taken. No values are immediately threatened.

The Fuller Creek Fire (#489) was caused by lightning on July 10. The unstaffed fire is burning in black spruce and tundra, 200 acres in size and 100% active, located approximately 10 miles west of Red Devil. The fire is burning in a limited protection area with no known values at risk and will be monitored by air.

The Kolmakof Hills Fire (#490) was caused by lightning on July 10. The unstaffed fire is burning in black spruce and tundra in a swampy muskeg area, less than an acre in size, located 25 miles east of Aniak.

The Barometer Mountain Fire (#491) was caused by lightning on July 10. Low visibility prevented smokejumpers mobilizing to the fire last night. The fire is burning in tundra and black spruce, about one mile southwest of Red Devil. The fire is burning in a modified protection area.

The Titnuk Creek Fire (#495) was reported on Thursday in a limited protection area. The fire is unstaffed, burning in black spruce and tundra, 25 miles southeast of Red Devil, and an estimated 50 acres in size. No known values are at risk and the fire will be monitored by air.

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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