Fire managers for the Alaska Division of Forestry are hopeful that more boots on the ground will help them get a leg up on a 176-acre wildfire burning along the Klutina River south of Copper Center.
Two crews from Montana – the Bitterroot Hotshots and Lewis and Clark Type 2 Initial Attack Crew – were expected to arrive at the Klutina River Fire (#461) on Thursday to bolster containment efforts on the fire that is burning about 12.5 miles southwest of Copper Center and 20 miles south of Glennallen.
The fire started right along the east bank of the Klutina River on Monday afternoon and limited resources have been available to fight the fire due to higher priority fires elsewhere in the state and low visibility as a result of dense smoke that has prevented air tankers and water-scooping aircraft from flying.
A Type 2 incident management team that had been ordered for the fire was canceled on Wednesday night and the Division of Forestry is mobilizing more firefighters to the fire in hopes of stopping its spread.
Active fire behavior was observed on Wednesday, with running and torching, but the fire experienced limited growth. Three helicopters, including two Blackhawks from the Alaska Air National Guard, were used to tamp down active parts of the fire on Wednesday with water drops.
The primary objective today is moving more firefighters into the fire and putting hose along the north and east flanks closest to the river to help firefighters keep the fire from crossing the river and moving north toward Copper Center. Crews will also be plumbing the south flank down to the river with pumps and hose.
In addition to the two crews from Montana, the remainder of the Palmer-based Gannett Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew will be mobilized to the fire from the nearby Tulsona Creek Fire along the Tok Cutoff. Half the crew was pulled from that fire on Tuesday to be put on the Klutina River Fire and the remainder of the crew will be reunited today.
With no helicopters available to shuttle them into the fire, crews must drive 14 miles up Klutina Lake Road, where they are then being transported across the river in jetboats to reach the fire.