Southwest Area Wildfire Update: More new lightning-caused fires; firefighters protecting two gold mines, one village, cabins and allotments

Eleven new lightning-caused fires were discovered in the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Southwest Area on Friday and more new fires are anticipated as a result of thousands of lightning strikes over the past three days.

More than 1,500 lightning strikes were recorded in Alaska on Friday, down considerably from the two days previous when 10,000 and 20,000 strikes, respectively, were detected across the state on Wednesday and Thursday. From Wednesday through Friday, there were 40 new lightning-caused fires discovered or reported in the Southwest Area around McGrath.

State forestry is currently staffing four fires in the Southwest Area, mainly to defend life, property, and values including commercial and historical infrastructure, remote cabins, and Native Alaskan allotments of land. There are currently 58 active fires in the Southwest Area, most in limited suppression areas with no known values at risk. Those fires are being monitored by air when conditions allow.

Here is a rundown of the four staffed fires in the Southwest Area, as well as the new fires reported late Thursday night and on Friday.

Staffed Fires

  • The Smith Creek Fire (#534), formerly the Grouse Creek Fire, was started by lightning on July 12 and is 13 miles northwest of Crooked Creek. The fire is 100% active in black spruce and multiple structures are threatened, notably the Donlin Gold Mine. Non-essential mine personnel are being relocated, and eight smokejumpers are in place to provide structure protection. A 20-person crew is being mobilized to the incident.
  • The McCally Creek Fire (#487) was caused by lightning on July 10 and is one of three fires that started on the same day within 3 miles of the village of Red Devil on the Kuskokwim River. The three fires are being managed as one. The other two fires are the 50-acre Barometer Mountain Fire (#491) and the 300-acre Barometer Foothills Fire (#499). Aircraft initially attacked the Barometer Foothills Fire to allow eight smokejumpers that had been deployed to try to suppress the other two smaller fires. The initial attack on the Barometer Foothills Fire was unsuccessful and all resources retreated to Red Devil to plan for structure protection. Smokejumpers were demobilized from Red Devil Friday morning and the fires were turned over to a Type 4 organization. However, the smokejumpers were brought back to the incident later that night because of increased fire activity. There are a total of 35 firefighters in place at Red Devil. The fire is burning in black spruce and tundra.
  • The Tundra Lake Fire (#474) was started by lightning on July 10 and is 50 miles northwest of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, about 10 miles south of Lime Village. Eight smokejumpers are defending a cabin and a Native Alaskan allotment near the fire, which is 450 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 16 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 300-acre fire is burning in mixed spruce and hardwoods, and the cause is under investigation.

New Fires

  • The Aghaluk Creek Fire (#544) started by lightning on July 13 near the Kuskokwim River, 25 miles southwest of Crooked Creek. The fire is 1,000 acres in size, burning in black spruce and tundra. A helitack crew from McGrath has been ordered to provide structure protection on a nearby cabin.
  • The Gemuna Creek Fire (#540) was started by lightning on July 13 about 6 miles northwest of Crooked Creek. The unstaffed fire is 30 acres in size, burning in black spruce and tundra. No additional information is available at this time.
  • The Buckstock River Fire (#543) was started by lightning on July 13 about 15 miles southeast of Aniak. The unstaffed fire has burned 25 acres in tundra. No known values are at risk and the fire will be monitored by air.
  • The Peary Creek Fire (#536) was caused by lightning on July 12, approximately 15 miles north of Crooked Creek. The fire has burned 2,200 acres of black spruce. There is no additional information on the fire and it is being monitored by aircraft.
  • The Middle Hoholitna Fire (#532) was started by lightning on July 12, about 45 miles southwest of Lime Village. The unstaffed fire is 3 acres in size and 80% active in black spruce. No known values are at risk and the fire will be monitored by air.
  • The Hoholitna River Fire (#531) was started by lightning on July 12, about 35 miles south of Stony River. The unstaffed fire is 15 acres in size and 60% active in black spruce. No known values are at risk and the fire will be monitored by air.
  • The Middle Hoholitna Fire (#528) was started by lightning on July 12, approximately 15 miles south of Stony River. The unstaffed fire is 80 acres in size and 100% active in black spruce and tundra. No known values are at risk and the fire will be monitored by air.
  • The Diamond Peak Fire (#527) was started by lightning on July 12 and is 15 miles west of Lime Village. The unstaffed fire is two acres in size, and 30% active in black spruce and tundra. No known values are at risk and the fire will be monitored by air.
  • The East Stony River Fire (#523) was started by lightning on July 12, approximately 4 miles east of Stony River. The unstaffed fire is burning in black spruce, hardwoods and tundra and is 5 acres in size. Smokejumpers and air tankers were ordered for the fire.
  • The Tishimna Lake Fire (#521) was started by lightning on July 12 and is about 25 miles northwest of Lime Village. The unstaffed fire was estimated at 2 acres, 10% active, burning in black spruce and tundra. There is a cabin 1.5 miles from the fire but it is not threated at this time.

To check on fires currently being monitored in the Southwest Area and to get information about other fires in Alaska, go to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Daily Situation Report.

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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