Firefighters on Thursday continued making good headway in containing the 120-acre Trumpeter Fire burning in the Point MacKenzie area of the Mat-Su Valley.
As of 5 p.m., the fire had not increased in size and containment had bumped up from 25 to 40 percent. Fire managers were expecting more containment before the end of shift at 8 p.m.
More than 50 firefighters are working to control the fire burning approximately 20 miles southwest of Wasilla. Most of Thursday’s work involved getting a hose line around entire perimeter of the fire so firefighters have a water supply to help extinguish hot spots and keep the fire within the current perimeter
Firefighters also conducted small, strategic burnout operations to burn off grass in several spots. Dead, dry grass is the primary carrier of the fire and the goal of the burnout operations is to eliminate potential fuel for the fire and increase depth in containment lines.
The fire is located in a semi-remote area off South Trumpeter Drive in Point MacKenzie. It was reported just before 4 p.m. on Wednesday and State Forestry mounted an aggressive initial attack from the ground and air. Firefighters worked late into the evening Wednesday to corral the fire, which is burning in grass and mixed hardwoods.
The Pioneer Peak Hotshots and Gannett Glacier Crew, both based in Palmer, account for the bulk of the personnel working on the fire and both crews will remain in place through tomorrow, barring any other fires that require initial attack.
One structure was initially threatened but firefighters set up protection measures around the structure and it is no longer threatened. No other structures are currently threatened.
Firefighters are using an ATV trail to access the fire on four-wheelers and on foot. A water tender from the Central Mat-Su Fire Department is being used to provide a water supply for firefighters.
The fire is believed to be human caused and is under investigation.
It was the second fire in two days that firefighters responded to in the Point MacKenzie area. Firefighters from Mat-Su Area Foresry and Central Mat-Su Fire Department extinguished an approximately 1-acre grass fire off Point MacKenize Road on Tuesday that was caused by an escaped debris burn pile. That fire was about 1 ½ miles south of the Trumpeter Fire.
Both blazes are indicative of extremely dry conditions in the southern Mat-Su Valley right now. With the snow melted and dead grass exposed, the surface fuels in the Palmer/Wasilla area are very receptive to any kind of ignition source.
The dry, early-season conditions are part of the reason the Division of Forestry is issuing a burn permit suspension for much of the state effective Friday, May 1. Permitted burning will be suspended for all of the state with the exception of Southeast Alaska south of Cordova in an attempt to reduce human-caused fires. The use of burn barrels, debris burning and any other burning covered by small- and large-scale burn permits will be suspended.
The suspension is also due in part to the impact COVID-19 is expected to have on resource availability of firefighters in Alaska and from the Lower 48. The Division of Forestry is trying to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19 for its firefighters and the public by reducing human-caused fires. In addition, availability of resources from the Lower 48 remains uncertain due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements related to COVID-19.