DOF’s surveillance and mapping flight yesterday confirmed that the Kwethluk Fire (fire #012), burning in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge 25 miles east southeast of Kwethluk, continues to grow. Fire mapping specialist Matt Snyder compared the data he collected yesterday what infrared imagery from the orbiting Sentinel 2 satellite. Snyder estimated that the fire size has grown to approximately 7,000 acres. “The fire is holding and there is no activity on the northwest flank near Three Step Mountain. There is no risk to the native allotments on the Kwethluk River. The fire continues to back on the south flank up Shallow Ridge and run west between water features. Based on the availability of sun dried tundra, brush and grasses, we anticipate that the fire will continue backing to the south and run between creeks until it runs out of fuel or receives precipitation.”
The Sentinel 2 satellite passes over Alaska every two days and uses color band filters to help see through the smoke and highlight burned area from vegetation. Yesterday’s fire activity included creeping and backing as seen in the photos with the smoke plumes moving the opposite direction of the fire’s growth. Yesterday’s weather at the time of aerial observation was winds 5-10 mph out of the east with a temperature of 40F and 50% cloud cover.
Values at risk include native allotments one mile to the northeast, 2.3 miles to the southeast, 3.3 miles to the west, and the Kwethluk Fish Weir approximately 5 miles to the west southwest. Because this early season fire is running into natural barriers such as rivers and snowpack, and is anticipated to run out of fuels well before threatening these values at risk, officials are not taking suppression action. Fire management officer Jeff Bouschor noted that “many times the effects of fire suppression activities have greater impacts to wildlife habitat, soils and vegetation than allowing fire as a natural process.” Bouschor noted that the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge managers are committed to protecting human life, settlements, native allotments, sensitive biological communities, cultural and historic sites, privately owned and permitted cabins and refuge infrastructure from wildland fire.
We will provide additional updates as they become available. Watch the April 18th narrated flyover video of this wildfire on DOF’s YouTube Channel:
As a reminder, burn permits are required from April 1 through August 31. You can pick up a burn permit online at https://dnr.alaska.gov/burn or pick them up at your local forestry office and at many local fire departments.
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