Just over a year ago on June 13th, a small 2-3 acre fire burning in black spruce was reported near the Kuskokwim River just six miles south of McGrath, Alaska. What became known as the About Mountain Fire grew substantially in the first three days and within the week was over 2,000 acres in size. Twenty four BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers were later joined by the Pioneer Peak Hotshots, an additional 17-person crew from the Mat-Su Area Forestry station in Palmer, and two Type 2 contract crews from BLM Alaska Fire Service. The firefighters built containment lines to keep the fire from growing toward the town, and completed structure protection work in the Cranberry Ridge subdivision. $300,000 from the Capital Improvement Program will fund DOF staff and crews to complete these projects be the end of 2023. These two projects will have treated approximately 262 acres of hazardous fuels protecting 307 people and the vital community infrastructure they rely on.
Takotna Fuel Break Project
This project will create a 300-foot-wide shaded fuel break around the community of Takotna and create a 100-foot-wide clearing around the community dump, a frequent source of escaped fires. When complete, this project will result in approximately 89 acres treated. These treatments will provide a primary and a contingency line of protection for the community.
McGrath Fuel Break Project
This project will build on progress made by DOF staff during the summer of 2021 to create two 300-foot-wide shaded fuel breaks to protect the community of McGrath. This project seeks to finish the two treatment areas that were started in 2021. Both projects build off of existing roadways, natural terrain features and the Kuskokwim River to separate the community from continuous fuels.
These projects are laid out and ready for continued work when conditions allow. DOF staff will work on this project when fire season allows in 2022 and 2023. This project was initially funded with a 2017 Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) grant, however, due to limitations imposed by busy fire seasons, availability of staff, and the remoteness of the project areas, not all the deliverables were able to be accomplished in the grant performance period.
We recommend that you follow Alaska’s Hazard Fuels Program Story Map for the scope and scale of fuel break and fuel reduction programs occurring across the state.
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.
Read more about protection areas, fire management plans and wildfire in Alaska here: http://forestry.alaska.gov/fire/fireplans