An approximately 120-acre wildfire burning in the Point MacKenzie area of the Mat-Su Valley is 25 percent contained and more than 50 firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry are continuing work to increase containment.
The Trumpeter Fire is burning in a remote area off South Trumpeter Drive in Point MacKenzie, approximately 20 miles southwest of Wasilla. The fire 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 dead grass and mixed hardwoods. The fire was estimated at 50 acres late Wednesday night and the increase in size is in large part due to better mapping.
A helicopter was used to drop water on the fire and both the Pioneer Peak Hotshots and Gannett Glacier Crew, both based in Palmer, responded to the fire. Three Division of Forestry engines and a helicopter load of firefighters from the Mat-Su Area Forestry office were the first responders to arrive on scene. Another helicopter from the State Forestry base in Soldotna was called in Wednesday night to assist with suppression effort
One structure was initially threatened but firefighters set up protection measures around the structure in the event the fire moved closer. The fire is moving to the northwest, away from the residential area and no other structures are currently threatened.
Firefighters are using an ATV trail to access the fire on four-wheelers and on foot. Both crews camped out at the fire overnight and were back on the line early Thursday morning. Fire managers reported good humidity recovery and cold temperatures overnight, which helped calm fire behavior.
Firefighters are continuing work today to get a hose line around the perimeter of the fire. A water tender from the Central Mat-Su Fire Department is being used to provide a water supply for firefighters.
Given the fact there was no lightning reported in the area, the fire is believed to be human caused and is under investigation. Fire investigators are still searching for the fire’s point of origin.
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.