Firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry’s McGrath station and BLM Alaska Fire Service responded to a structure fire that burned down a lodge and multiple cabins on the Aniak River Tuesday night and then spread into the surrounding wildlands.
The owner of the Aniak River Lodge reported the fire at 6 p.m. using an Inreach satellite communication device. He relayed that the fire was out of reach of their hoses and was burning toward the lodge. The Aniak River Lodge is 25 miles upriver from the village of Aniak.
Eight smokejumpers and two water-scooping aircraft stationed in Galena, a four-person helitack crew from McGrath and and an air tanker from Palmer were deployed to the Aniak River Fire (#278) but the fire had destroyed the cabins and lodge by the time personnel and aircraft arrived on scene at around 8 p.m. The lodge owner and three employees were the only ones at the lodge and all escaped without injury by retreating to boats in the nearby river.
By the time firefighters and aircraft arrived on scene, the wildland portion of the fire had grown to 5 acres. The helicopter and water scoopers began dropping water on the fire to keep it from spreading further and the air tanker made two retardant drops around the edges of the fire to further slow its spread.
Firefighters on the ground were able to get hose line around about one-third of the fire Tuesday night and had it 60 percent contained at the end of the evening. Five more firefighters from McGrath were flown to Aniak and shuttled into the fire by helicopter, putting a total of 17 personnel on the fire as of Wednesday morning.
Firefighters will continue getting hose line around the fire today to begin mop-up operations. There is considerable chainsaw work to do. The Gannett Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew based in Palmer was being transported to the fire on Wednesday to replace the eight smokejumpers so they can be available for initial attack on other new fires.