The Alaska Division of Forestry has deployed a team of 12 smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service on an estimated 300-acre wildfire burning along the east bank of the Kuskokwim River approximately 6 miles south of McGrath.
The About Mountain Fire (#193) was reported by aircraft at 4:08 p.m. Monday as a 2-to 3-acre fire burning in black spruce. The fire is less than one-quarter from the Kuskokwim River.
By the time smokejumpers hit the ground at around 6:45 p.m. the fire had grown to an estimated at 80 acres and on Tuesday morning was estimated at 300 acres. Smokejumpers are working to cut a saw line from the heel of the fire to the river and also working to cut a saw line along the eastern flank to tie it into a meadow. They are also working to get hose around the heel and east flank of the fire.
An air tanker based in Palmer made one retardant drop around the fire Monday night and was enroute to make a second drop when it was diverted to Fairbanks for a higher priority fire. The tanker is scheduled to return today to make additional retardant drops. A Type 2 hand crew has been ordered for the fire and will be shuttled in by boat when they arrive.
The fire was reported to be slowly moving to the north on Tuesday morning but there are numerous natural barriers that should help confine the fire and prevent it from approaching McGrath. The fire is flanked by the Kuskokwim River to the west, a riparian area to the north and an old burn scar to the east. The fire is also surrounded by numerous wetlands.
Smoke from the fire impacted the community of McGrath Tuesday morning but the fire does not currently pose a threat to McGrath or any other values at risk. There is a Native allotment approximately 1 ½ miles south of the fire.
Supplies are being flown into the fire via paracargo.
The cause of the fire is undetermined at this time and a fire investigator has been ordered.