Firefighters continue working to stamp out two human-caused wildfires burning in southwest Alaska, one near the coastal village of Pilot Point on the Alaska Peninsula and one near the village of Akiachak along the Kuskokwim River.
Twelve smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service spent Tuesday working to contain the estimated 180-acre Kiktak Island Fire (#112) near the village of Akiachak on the Kuskokwim River, about 13 miles northeast of Bethel.
The fire is burning along the south bank of a slough of the Kuskokwim River, about 2 miles south of Akiachak. The fire destroyed multiple structures in a fish camp along the slough prior to the arrival of the smokejumpers.
The fire started on Monday night and local residents at the fish camp tried to put it out but it flared up on Tuesday and smokejumpers were called in. Using multiple retardant drops from two air tankers, as well as water drops from a helicopter, the smokejumpers worked to secure the head of the fire by deploying hose lines and cutting a saw line around it.
The Fairbanks-based White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew will be flown into the fire today to help secure containment lines and mop up the fire. The goal today is to complete the saw line around the head of the fire and burn off any unburned pockets of fuel.
A federal fire investigator has been ordered to look into the cause of the fire.
As of Wednesday morning, there were 33 firefighters working to contain the Pilot Point Fire (#104) near the small, remote village of Pilot Point, located about 370 miles southwest of Anchorage. The fire, which started Monday as the result of an escaped fire from the village dump, is estimated at 600 acres with 50 percent containment.
Firefighters have secured the southern edge of the fire about 2 miles north of the village and the fire is no longer considered a threat to the village but smoke from the fire could impact the airport with temporary closures.
The Pioneer Peak Hotshot Crew was flown to the fire from Palmer on Tuesday, joining 12 BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers deployed on Monday. The 21-person hotshot crew will work to secure the east and northeast sides of the fire today using an ATV trail as an indirect containment line.
A helicopter has been ordered to support firefighters on the ground with water drops and logistical flights. Eight smokejumpers are expected to be released from the fire today so they can be available for initial attack on any new fire starts. Fire managers are hoping for full containment of the fire sometime on Thursday or Friday.