The Alaska Division of Forestry deployed 12 smokejumpers on an estimated 100-acre wildfire burning near the village of Akiachak in southwest Alaska Tuesday afternoon to protect a fish camp and Native allotments surrounding the fire.
The smokejumpers, from the BLM Alaska Fire Service in Fairbanks, were dropped on the fire at around 2:45 p.m. and reported the fire to be approximately 100 acres and 40 percent active. The fire is burning in a fish camp along a slough on the south bank of the Kuskokwim River near Kiktak Island, approximately 2 miles south of Akiachak and roughly 13 miles northeast of Bethel. Both the slough and river are between the fire and the village.
The fire, named the Kiktak Island Fire, was originally detected by satellite Tuesday morning and fire managers from the Division of Forestry called residents in Akiachak to get more information on the fire. Local residents confirmed there was a fire and fire managers made contact with Alaska State Troopers in Bethel. Troopers said a local resident was picking ferns in the area the day before and discarded a cigarette butt that ignited the fire.
A group of villagers fought the fire through the night and thought they had it contained but it kicked up again on Tuesday, prompting a response from state forestry, the agency charged with wildfire protection in that area. Smokejumpers reported that four to six structures in the fish camp were destroyed or damaged by the fire and there were seven other structures in close proximity to the fire, including one prominent structure within 200 yards of the fire. Smokejumpers were planning to burn off grass and other fuels around the structure closest to the fire to protect it.