Containment of the 2,135-acre About Mountain Fire near McGrath in southwest Alaska climbed to 84 percent Tuesday as firefighters continued accessing hard-to-reach areas of the fire in hopes of getting the fire fully contained before high winds arrive today and Thursday.
There were 73 personnel still working on the fire as of Wednesday. The fire was reported June 14 about 6 miles south of McGrath along the Kuskokwim River.
Two smokejumpers are hiking and using portable packrafts to reach higher, more remote areas of the fire that can’t be reached by boat or helicopter. The packrafts, which weigh about 5 pounds and fit into a backpack, are being used to cross sloughs and beaver ponds to reach hot spots.
These difficult-to-reach areas of lingering heat will be tested by the 20 to 30 mph Chinook winds that are predicted for to begin this afternoon and last through Thursday. The two jumpers will also serve as lookouts throughout the shift to provide early notification of any flare-ups caused by the wind.
The Pioneer Peak Hotshot Crew has completed mopping up and gridding 300 feet in from the perimeter of the fire in the division they were working in and will be relocating to the heel of the fire to address remaining areas of heat along the line there.
Two Type 2 hand crews were extracted today after completing mop-up operations on another section of the fire. Those crews will return to McGrath for additional assignments or demobilization.
An Unmanned Aerial System (UAS/drone) equipped with infrared imagery has been ordered and is scheduled to arrive on Friday to help hunt for hidden hot spots. Any heat found will be addressed by remaining resources over the weekend and into early next week. The use of the drone reduces risk and exposure to fire crews.
Local boat operators are transporting food and equipment to crews camping and working along the Kuskokwim River.