Southwest Alaska Area Fire Information Update – July 29

Warmer temperatures and sunny skies promoted a slight increase in fire behavior producing visible smoke from wildfires in southwest Alaska on Monday. There are currently 64 active fires in the Southwest Area according to the Division of Forestry office in McGrath. No new fires were reported on Sunday. Five fires remain staffed to protect the villages of Nikolai and Red Devil, the Donlin Mine, the Nixon Mine, and allotments and cabins along the Kuskokwim River.

Southwest Area – Alaska Division of Forestry staffed fire(s): 

The Medicine Creek Fire (#673) – (8 acres) was started by lightning on July 23, five miles northwest of Medfra. The 8 acre fire is burning in black spruce and tundra. Moisture levels in fine fuels including grass and the top layers of tundra remain high, while lower duff levels remain dry in many areas, increasing the amount of time it takes to completely extinguish fires. Firefighters continue to mop-up the eastern perimeter of the fire. [17 personnel]

The Lost Jack Lake Fire (#662) – (47.5 acres), started by lightning on July 23, three miles north of Nikolai. The 10-person Mammoth Wildland Fire Module and the 20-person Southwest Area Crew #2 comprised of firefighters from Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay and Chevak made good progress again today and have mopped up most of the visible heat within 100 feet of the fire line. [34 personnel]

The Smith Creek Fire (#534) – (67,273 acres), was started by lightning on July 12, one mile west of the Donlin Mine. The fire has burned into the Peary Creek Fire (#536) and the Timber Creek Fire (#537) to the north. The combined fires total 67,273 acres, burning in black spruce and threatening structures at the Donlin Mine. Firefighters continue to secure 80 structures at the Donlin Mine facility by mopping up any remaining heat from successful firing operations. Due to favorable weather conditions, remaining pockets of unburned vegetation were burned to reduce the threat to access roads to drill sites to the south. Managers of the mine have suspended operations and removed remaining personnel in order to accommodate firefighting operations. [11 personnel]

The McCally Creek Fire (#487) – (3,097 acres) was started by lightning on July 10 near the community of Red Devil. The fire has merged with the Barometer Mountain Fire (#491) and the Barometer Foothills Fire (#499), totaling 3,097-acres, burning in mixed spruce. The Pioneer Peak Hotshots have achieved mopping up in the McCally Creek drainage to protect the community and additional structures across the Kuskokwim River. Firefighters are shifting their efforts to constructing saw line around a Native Allotment west of the Red Devil airstrip and estimate completion of line in approximately two shifts. [21 personnel]

The Hidden Creek Fire (#464) – (1,100 acres) was started by lightning on July 9, 20 miles northwest of Nikolai in the area of the Nixon Fork Gold Mine. The 1,100-acre fire is burning in mixed spruce and hardwoods. The Southwest Area Crew #1 from the communities of Hooper Bay, Shageluk, Nikolai, and Nondalton have completed structure protection objectives at the Nixon Fork Mine facility and will continue to improve fire line and monitor fire activity. A reconnaissance flight yesterday observed two small areas of smoke that have been determined non-threatening to the infrastructure. [12 personnel]

There are 42 fires currently in monitor status. Monitoring schedules are based on defined time frames, but are dependent on available resources, and weather conditions. When monitoring occurs, information will be updated. To see the status of un-staffed fires, go to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center’s Situation Report.

The Southwest Area forestry office in McGrath appreciates reports from the public regarding fire activity and will be conducting detection flights to look for other new fires in the area. To report new fires in the Southwest Area, call 907-524-3366 (FIRE LINE).  For more information call Public Information Officer, Sarah Saarloos at 907-863-2009.

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