A flyover video narrated by DOF’s mapping specialist Matt Snyder yesterday for the Kwethluk Fire includes infrared footage and a detailed description of how the fire burned, where it tried to go and where it was held by natural barriers. Monitoring flights and heat sensing satellite imagery provide fire managers insight into current fire activity, intensity and movement. Due to the reduced activity of the Kwethluk Fire, future monitoring flight will be based on current and expected fire behavior and favorable flight conditions.
Kwethluk Fire April 26, 2022 flyover and infrared footage filmed, narrated and edited by DOF’s mapping specialist Matt Snyder.
As reported yesterday, forward movement of the Kwethluk Fire has been halted. Burning in tundra, grasses and brush since Saturday April 16, the wind driven wildfire has been finding sun dried fuels in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The wildfire is 25 miles east southeast of Kwethluk and 34 miles southeast from Bethel. 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.
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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