Firefighters on foot and in packrafts continued accessing hard-to-reach areas of the 2,135-acre About Mountain Fire near McGrath in southwest Alaska on Monday to boost containment of the fire located 6 miles south of McGrath along the Kuskokwim River.
Containment on the fire climbed from 60 to 80 percent as of late Monday night and that number should continue to rise as crews access uncontained line. A drone with infrared imagery was ordered to conduct a flight over the fire later this week to search for any lingering hot spots.
There are 80 personnel working on the fire, including the Division of Forestry’s Pioneer Peak Hotshots, 14 smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service and two Type 2 contract crews. Ten smokejumpers were demobilized from the fire on Monday and returned to Fairbanks to be available for initial attack on any new fires.
On Monday, smokejumpers hiked to remote and higher areas utilizing one-person packrafts as necessary to access hot spots along sloughs and beaver ponds. The packrafts were part of the initial supplies smokejumpers deployed on the fire with, knowing there would likely be a use for them given the terrain they are working in. Smokejumpers on Monday accessed a beaver dam that was burning by rafting to it and extinguishing it with water. While this kind of work in remote areas involves risk, inserting a few smokejumpers rather than an entire hand crew helps reduce risk to firefighters.
Firefighters are searching for and extinguishing every hot spot found within 300 feet of the fire’s perimeter to lessen the chances of flare-ups that could cross containment lines. These difficult to reach areas of lingering heat will be tested by the 20- to 30-mph Chinook winds that are predicted for Wednesday.
Crews are using a combination of helicopters and boats to ferry supplies to the fire from the McGrath forestry station.
Structures in Cranberry Ridge Subdivision 3 miles north of the fire have been prepped with sprinklers and pumps as a long-term contingency plan in the event the fire threatens them. One Native allotment was identified 3 miles south of the fire and an allotment protection contingency plan is in place.
The fire was reported on June 14 and is believed to have been caused by an abandoned campfire. The fire grew significantly the first three days before rain on Thursday dampened fire activity, enabling crews to take direct action on the fire.
- 14 smokejumpers assigned to critical overhead positions
- Pioneer Peak Hotshot Crew
- 2 Type 2 BLM Alaska Fire Service contract crews
- 1 Type 3 helicopter
- 3 boat operators
- 1 helibase manager
- 1 fire medic
- 1 Type 3 finance section chief
- 1 Type 3 plans section chief
- 1 Type 3 logistics section chief