Rain helps smokejumpers, aircraft quell many of the two dozen new fires in Northwest Alaska

Map of fires in the Northwest Arctic, many of which started following a wave of lightning in the area on June 22, 2021. Click on link for a PDF version of this map or go online interactive Wildland Fire Information Map Series.

The combination of effort on the ground and from the air was successful in catching several northwestern fires before they could impact nearby Native allotments or structures. This, coupled isolated thunderstorms that accompanied the lightning that is to blame for the new ignitions, helped extinguish some of the around two dozen fires that started late Tuesday night.

Due to the high number of new starts, fire managers prioritized response to wildfires that were immediately threatening structures and allotments. Some of the fires were burning in a limited management option area that, as long as they weren’t threatening any sites of value, were placed in monitor status. Others, such as fires near the mouth of the Noatak River, were burning close to Native allotments and cabins, triggering a response from smokejumpers and water-dropping aircraft. Because the majority are burning among surface vegetation – specifically tundra grass – the smokejumpers and aircraft were successful in quickly suppressing some of the fires.

“We’re not seeing much fire growth,” said Jake Livingston, BLM Alaska Fire Service Galena Zone Fire Management Officer. “The majority of these fires got held up by rain from the thunderstorms.”

BLM Alaska Fire Service personnel working in the Galena Fire Management Zone kept busy Wednesday sorting through the various new fire reports that were called in late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning by firefighters aboard aircraft flying the area looking for new wildfires or deploying smokejumpers. Some were reported as black spots that were already extinguished by rain.

The 3,800 lightning strikes recorded in Alaska and surrounding Canadian territories were almost entirely concentrated in an area from Galena north to the Noatak River Valley. This area is about half of the BLM AFS Galena Zone that encompasses about 93.5 million acres in Western Alaska from the Yukon River to the North Slope.

Additional wetting rains forecasted to start on Thursday have a good chance of quashing many of the remaining fires.

Noatak River fires

Smokejumpers were still working on five fires Wednesday. They demobilized from two fires by the end of today after making sure the fires are out. Smokejumpers will remain on the two high priority fires that are burning near Native allotments and structures on the east side of the Noatak River just north of Kotzebue. Plus, there are eight protecting a Native allotment from the Tutak Creek Fire (#243) burning west of Kivalina since June 20.

A load of 12 smokejumpers was broken up evenly between the Hugo Creek Fire (#254) and the Mulik Hills Fire (#253). Two water-scooping Fire Boss airplanes also dropped water on to knock the energy out of these small fires. Smokejumpers are still assigned to these fires to make sure they are completely out.

The Little Noatak 3 (#262) and Little Noatak Slough 2 (#261) are the other new fires in this immediate area. Two water-scooping aircraft dropped a few loads on both fires, effectively putting them out.

Selawik area fires
The Niglaktak Lake Fire (#256) is burning on an island within two miles from Selawik.
The Niglaktak Lake Fire (#256) is burning on an island within two miles from Selawik. Photo by Nathan Gilmore, BLM AFS

Niglaktak Lake (#256) was reported around 5:50 p.m. and was very visible from the neighboring village. However, the fire is burning in tundra on a small island surrounded by water and wasn’t considered a concern because there were not sites of value on the island. It is burning in a limited management option and was put in monitor status.

Selawik River Fire (#255) was burning in a limited management option area about 50 miles east of Selawik.

Seward Peninsula Fires

A cluster of fires are burning in about 30 miles southeast of Buckland. The Ulukluk Creek (#273), Buckland River Fire (#257), the Masukatalik Creek Fire (#259), Buckland River 2 Fire (#274) were not immediately threatening any valuable sites and did not generate a response.

The Fish River Fire (#263) was spotted by personnel aboard an airplane delivering smokejumpers to the Canyon Creek Fire (#260) burning south of Buckland. Each fire got two smokejumpers apiece.

The Duck Creek Fire (#264) is burning in a modified option area on BLM-managed land near the mouth of the Kiwalik River where it empties into the Spafarief Bay. Four smokejumpers deployed to this fire and put it out.

The American River Fire (#269) is burning about 26 miles northeast of Brevig Mission on the opposite side of the American River. It was reported at about 3 acres on State of Alaska managed land. It’s burning in a limited option area and placed on monitor status.

The Lava Fire (#271) started Tuesday night. It is burning next to the Imuruk Volcanic Field in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. It’s burning in a limited management option area and because it was not threatening any valuable sites, was placed in monitor status.

Photo of smoke rising up from tundra next to volcanic rock.
The Lava Fire (#271) was burning next to the Imuruk Volcanic Field (in black) in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve on June 22, 2012. Photo by Nathan Gilmore, BLM AFS

Related posts: Lightning triggers at least a dozen new fires in northwestern Alaska, Smoke impacts communities south of two large fires burning in the Northwest Arctic

For more information, contact BLM Alaska Fire Service Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510 or eipsen@blm.gov.

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: