A wildfire that ignited as a result of an escaped dump fire near the village of Pilot Point on the Alaska Peninsula is now estimated to be at least 500 acres but all immediate threats to the village have been mediated.
Pilot Point is a small, remote village of approximately 65 residents located on the Aleutian Chain, about 370 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Twelve smokejumpers who were flown in to initial attack the fire on Thursday completed a burn operation along a road leading from the village to the dump to keep the fire north of the village and to protect the village airstrip and wooden power poles threatened by the fire. The fire is about 2 miles north of the village.
Smokejumpers will continue their burn operation today to secure the tail end of the fire. They will also be scouting the east and northwest sides of the fire to develop a plan to suppress the portion of the fire that is still burning actively.
The Pilot Point Fire is burning primarily in tundra grass and brush. The fire burned actively through the night and smokejumpers worked until about midnight before pulling off the line. They were back on the fireline at 7 a.m.
Smokejumpers used a road leading from the village to the dump and airstrip as anchor point for their burn operation with the intent to keep the fire north of the road and village. They burned east along the road for approximately 3 ½ miles on Thursday night and had roughly 2 more miles to burn today to secure the tail of the fire.
The 21-person Pioneer Peak Interagency Hotshot Crew will mobilize to the fire today to relieve at least eight of the smokejumpers who initial attacked the fire on Thursday afternoon.
After a slow start to the fire season, the Pilot Point Fire drew the first significant response of the season from Alaska’s wildland firefighting agencies. Only about 60 acres had burned in Alaska this season as a result of 94 fires as of Monday. Monday’s response marked the first retardant drop of the season and the first jump of the season for Alaska Smokejumpers.
The fire was reported a little after 1 p.m. Monday after a fire burning in the dump escaped into tundra grass. Villagers tried to control the fire but southeast winds of 15-20 mph thwarted those efforts and the village requested help from the Division of Forestry.
A load of 12 BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers based in Fairbanks were dropped on the fire at approximately 3:30 p.m. The fire was 90 percent active at that time with 3- to 5-foot flame lengths on the flanks and 10-foot flame lengths at the head. An air tanker based in Palmer was called in to drop a load of retardant around part of the fire to help control the spread. The fire was pushed to the north and west by southeast winds and was expected to burn up to Ugashik Bay on the west side. It is still slowly spreading to the north and east, which is where firefighters will be focusing their efforts once the burn operation is completed.