Lightning triggers at least a dozen new fires in northwestern Alaska

Map shows where the bulk of the 3,823 lightning strikes in Alaska and neighboring territories fell on June 22, 2021.
Map shows where the bulk of the 3,823 lightning strikes in Alaska and neighboring territories fell on June 22, 2021.

A wave of lightning moved across the northwestern part of the state Tuesday afternoon, triggering about a dozen new fires from Galena north to the Noatak River Valley. As the National Weather Service predicted in its red flag warning Tuesday afternoon, an “abundance” of lightning rolled through this area. As of 10:30 p.m., this area got the bulk of the 3,823 lightning strikes recorded in Alaska and the neighboring Canadian territories. Some of the new fires drew quick response from smokejumpers, water-scooping aircraft and another aircraft to help coordinate the suppression efforts and relaying situational information back to BLM AFS Galena Zone fire managers in Galena.

The situation was evolving throughout the afternoon and evening with fire managers constantly assessing how to respond to the number of new wildfires on the landscape. More information will be released as it becomes available on Wednesday.

Map of new fires that started when lightning rolled through part of Western Alaska on June 22, 2012 from Galena north to the Kobuk River Valley.
Map of fires burning in the area include new fires (numbers 250-263) that started on June 22, 20121 after lightning rolled through part of Western Alaska from Galena north to the Kobuk River Valley.
Galena area fires

The uptick in activity started just before 4 p.m. with two fires north of Galena that generated a response from eight smokejumpers and two water-scooping Fire Boss airplanes divided between the two small fires. The smokejumpers split evenly between the Creek Fire (#250) and the Creek 2 Fire (#251). With the aid of the water-dropping aircraft, they were able to quickly quash the fires and demobilize by 9 p.m.

Noatak River Delta fires
Map of fires near the mouth of the Noatak River on June 22, 2021.
Map of fires and Native allotments near the mouth of the Noatak River on June 22, 2021.

Five new fires popped up near the mouth of the Noatak River and neighboring slough north of Kotzebue with the latest report reaching the Galena Zone dispatch center around 10:30 p.m. Four of these five are in close proximity to each other. Some of the fires are burning very close to Native allotments in the area. A load of 12 smokejumpers was divided between the Hugo Creek Fire (#254) and the neighboring Mulik Hills Fire (#253). The two fires are about a mile apart. The Noatak River 2 (#263) was the latest fire to be reported at 10:30 p.m. The Little Noatak 3 (#262) and Little Noatak Slough 2 (#261) are the other new fires in this immediate area.

Selawik area fires
The Niglaktak Lake Fire (#256) is burning on a peninsula surrounded by water within 2 miles of Selawik.
The Niglaktak Lake Fire (#256) is burning on a peninsula surrounded by water within 2 miles of Selawik.

The Niglaktak Lake (#256) was reported around 5:50 p.m. and was very visible from the neighboring village. However, the fire is burning on a peninsula surrounded by water and was not immediately threatening any sites of values. It is burning in a limited management option and was put in monitor status. The Selawik River Fire (#255) was burning in a limited management option area about 50 miles east of Selawik.

Buckland area fires

The Canyon Creek Fire (#260) is burning about six miles southeast of Buckland. The Buckland River Fire (#257) is burning about 30 miles southeast of Buckland. The Masukatalik Creek Fire (#259) is burning about 27 miles southeast of Buckland and about eight miles southwest of the Buckland River Fire. These fires were not immediately threatening any nearby sites of values and did not generate a response.

There will likely be more fire starts from this round of lightning in the upcoming days as they smolder in dry vegetation or ground layers until conditions dry out. BLM AFS personnel will fly the area looking for the new ignitions.

Plus, the area has already been impacted by smoke from two existing tundra fires burning north of this area.

For more information, contact BLM AFS Public Affair Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510.



Categories: Active Wildland Fire, Air Quality, AK Fire Info, BLM Alaska Fire Service

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