Firefighters have finished protection work on more than a dozen cabins and outbuildings in the path of the nearly 2,100-acre About Mountain Fire burning along the Kuskokwim River about 6 miles south of McGrath, while also working to build containment lines to keep the fire from growing toward the town.
The About Mountain Fire (#193) was reported on Monday as a 2-to 3-acre fire burning in black spruce. The fire, which is less than one-quarter mile east of the Kuskokwim River, grew substantially the first three days but firefighters have been holding their own trying to keep it in check with the help of aircraft and natural barriers. Mother Nature lent firefighters a hand Thursday, too, with rain that helped subdue fire behavior. The fire was estimated to be 2,066 acres and 2% contained as of Friday morning.
There were 92 personnel on the fire as of Friday morning and more personnel were enroute to reinforce ground forces. The fire transitioned to a larger Type 3 management organization on Wednesday.
The cause of the fire is believed to be an abandoned campfire and is being investigated
The cooler, wetter weather the last two days provides an opportunity for firefighters to take direct action and work on building containment lines.
“The rain dramatically helped slow fire spread,” Incident Commander Pat Johnson, one of the smokejumpers working on the fire, said. “The goal today is going to be direct line construction to secure the fire’s edge and getting crews in there.”
The Pioneer Peak Hotshots were shuttled out to the fireline Thursday and a 17-person crew from the Mat-Su Area Forestry station in Palmer will join the effort tomorrow. There are also 24 BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers working on the fire and two Type 2 contract crews from the BLM AFS.
Four smokejumpers and one of the Type 2 crews have completed structure protection work in the Cranberry Ridge subdivision, a cluster of 15-20 cabins and outbuildings at the end of a dirt road about 10 miles southeast of McGrath. The subdivision is approximately 3 miles north of fire. Firefighters cleared brush and set up sprinklers around the structures that can be turned on in the event the fire threatens them.
The fire is burning in a combination of dead and down timber and black spruce. There are numerous natural barriers that are helping to slow its growth, such as the Kuskokwim River, sloughs, lakes, wetlands and an old burn scar. The fire does not pose a threat to the community of McGrath but it could reach the cabins if it continues to push north and east.
The Pioneer Peak Hotshots and 12 smokejumpers working to secure the northeast corner of the fire while two smokejumpers and the other Type 2 crew are constructing indirect line to connect containment line to the Kuskokwim River.
A local bulldozer operator from McGrath has been hired to improve access along the road and to improve a safety zone for firefighters working on structure protection.
Water-bombing aircraft and air tankers mad multiple were used to drop retardant and water on and around the fire on Wednesday and two helicopters have been transporting supplies, making water drops on the fire and shuttling crews around the fire.