Twelve smokejumpers are working on two lightning-caused tundra fires burning within 20 miles of Kotlik close to the Norton Sound in Western Alaska. The Hogback Hill Fire (#157) and the Pastolik River Fire (#158) were discovered by BLM AFS personnel aboard a fire detection flight Monday evening. The flight was scheduled out of Galena after concerned residents reported seeing lightning in the Kotlik area where dry grasses and breezy conditions were present – fearing new fires would start and quickly spread.
The Hogback Hill Fire was spotted burning next to an Alaska Native allotment and on Alaska Native corporation lands about 14 miles east of Kotlik. The Pastolik River Fire is burning within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Both are in full protection option area and generated a response from the BLM Alaska Fire Service Galena Management Zone. The 12 smokejumpers were prepositioned in Galena due to the concern of new fire starts could quickly spread through the dry tundra grass in Western Alaska. Each fire received six smokejumpers who are working to contain both fires and are tentatively scheduled to demobilize tomorrow.
The six jumpers on the Hogback Hill Fire reported making great strides to contain what is now estimated to be a 400-acre fire. Luckily, it burned away from the allotment and north toward the Norton Sound. Smokejumpers are mopping up the Pastolik River Fire that stayed relatively small at around 30 acres. Fire officials said smokejumpers were aided by natural barriers such as marshes and streams, that hindered this fire’s growth.
While fire activity has been very quiet in the 191.5 million acres that make up BLM AFS protection area in the northern half of Alaska, that is likely to change as more lightning is forecasted in the upcoming week. This, combined with the warm weather that has made the dead tundra grass very receptive to burning and rapid spread, will increase the chances that more fires will occur in remote parts of the state that aren’t commonly touched by humans. Despite this, human-caused fires are still a huge concern throughout Alaska.
As of 3:20 p.m. today, May 31, of the 149 fires statewide, only 14 have occurred in BLM AFS’s protection area. These fires have burned a combined estimate of about 13,000 in Alaska so far this year – mostly due to the 10,000-acre Kwethluk Fire that started in April.
For more information contact Beth Ipsen (907)356-5510 or email@example.com.