Natural Barriers and Weather Change Halt Kwethluk Fire (#012) Remains in Monitor Status at 10,302 acres

Forward movement has been halted for the early season Kwethluk Fire. Burning in tundra, grasses and brush since Saturday April 16th, the wind driven wildfire has been finding sun dried fuels in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Originally reported by good Samaritan commercial pilots, the wildfire is 25 miles east southeast of Kwethluk and 34 miles southeast from Bethel. DOF’s mapping specialist Matt Snyder flew a mapping and reconnaissance of the fire today noting in his field report this afternoon: “the fire is showing no smoke or activity. An infrared (IR) scan showed no heat. The fire will remain in monitor status so that further aerial observations can be made.” Originally scheduled for yesterday but delayed due to heavy cloud cover, today’s flight under clear sky shows the lack of smoke production from what was a 10% active perimeter when last observed on Friday’s flight. The natural barriers halting further spread include mountains, winter snowpack, icy creeks and rivers. Precipitation and increased humidities have also slowed fire spread. Persistently able to throw spotfires over frozen creeks and drainages for most of the last 10 days, the Kwethluk Fire remains two miles from the nearest native allotment.

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. An additional surveillance flight will take place this week as needed and fire managers will continue to monitor both satellite heat sensors, FAA Weather Aviation cameras, and good Samaritan reports from Kwethluk, Bethel and Napakiak.

It is common to have wildfires at this time of year in Alaska. As our daylight lengthens, the snowpack recedes and exposes the tundra grasses, mosses and shrubs to the drying effects of the wind and the sun. These conditions, coupled with sparse precipitation, work to dry out the tundra plants and make them available as fuel for combustion. Western Alaskan wildfires burning at this time of year tend to be wind driven and fast moving but also short-lived. These fires cannot burn deeply below the surface due to the shallow frost layer and tend to readily extinguish themselves as they encounter drainages and sloughs, differing vegetation, existing areas of snow, or changes in weather.

The Kwethluk Fire is burning in a geographic area that is denoted in the Alaska Interagency Fire Management Plan as a “Limited Management Option” Fire. More commonly referred to as a “Limited” Fire. A Limited Fire is most often located far from population centers and valuable Alaskan infrastructure. A fire in this category usually only receives traditional suppression efforts if it continues to grow and becomes a potential threat to any life or property. However, wildfires in the Limited category are always aggressively monitored and mapped in proximity to existing values. These surveillance activities allow Alaskan wildland firefighting agencies to be better able to make timely and accurate decisions as the fire situation changes and requires an updated strategies. However, even in the case of Limited Fires, these decisions whether to deliver firefighters to Alaskan wildfires are not entered into lightly. Strategies, tactics and decisions for every wildfire take into account many variables, from resource availability, values at risk, fuel conditions, current and forecasted weather, seasonality and above all; firefighter and public safety.

We will provide additional updates as they become available. Fire information for the State of Alaska is also available at, the statewide wildfire information blog. 

As a reminder, burn permits are required from April 1 through August 31. You can pick up a burn permit online at or pick them up at your local forestry office and at many local fire departments. 

#FireYear2022 #AlaskaWildfire  #2022AlaskaFireSeason

Categories: Active Wildland Fire, AK Fire Info, Alaska DNR - Division of Forestry (DOF), BLM Alaska Fire Service, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

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