Alaska Type 2 Incident Management Green Team ordered to manage efforts on wildfire burning north of St. Mary’s
(FAIRBANKS, Alaska) – After another active day of burning, BLM Alaska Fire Service officials in Galena are reassessing efforts after the East Fork Fire, burning north of St. Mary’s, spotted on the west side of the Andreafsky River Tuesday afternoon.
The Alaska Type 2 Incident Management Green Team was ordered to take over management of the wildfire due to its proximity to numerous Native allotments, historical sites and the roughly 500 people living in village of St. Mary’s. An incident management team is mobilized during complex emergency incidents to provide a command and control infrastructure in order to manage the operational, logistical, informational, planning, fiscal, community, political, and safety issues associated with complex incidents.
For the last four days, the fire has experienced significant growth late into the evening due to wind channeling south down the river drainage, pushing the fire south in between the Andreafsky River and the East Fork of the Andreafsky River. The fire is still 12-15 miles north of St. Mary’s, however, a smaller portion of the fire is burning on the same side of the river as the community since about 3 p.m. Tuesday.
The BLM AFS’s Galena Fire Management Zone, which has been managing the efforts on the fire, increased the number of aircraft and firefighters in response to the uptick in fire activity. On Tuesday morning two water-scoopers and an air attack plane are working with firefighting personnel to help coordinate the suppression efforts to cool down the southern edge of the fire.
The BLM Alaska Fire Service Chena Hotshot Crew made the 400-mile journey from Fairbanks to St. Mary’s Tuesday morning. Two helicopters are based in St. Mary’s to provide support shuttling people and supplies around as well as water bucket drops to the support firefighters on the ground. Twelve smokejumpers deployed Tuesday in addition to the 10 that were already working on the fire.
The fire is estimated to have burnt almost 30,000 acres as of Tuesday morning. For safety reasons, the 10 smokejumpers working to protect Native allotments on the east side of the river pulled back to a safe area on the west side of the river Monday night as the fire quickly burned through tundra and tussock grass. The priorities on the incident are public and firefighter safety, and protecting sites of value, including Native allotments and cabins along the Andreafsky and East Fork Andreafsky rivers.
The fire did burn two predominately tundra grass covered Native allotments and some of the hose smokejumpers had strung out along its borders.
A temporary flight restriction was placed over the fire area to provide a safe airspace for firefighting aircraft.
This lightning-caused fire started on May 31 and originally burned in a limited management option area within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. This option allows for management of wildfires to benefit the natural habitat as long as it doesn’t threaten any sites of value.
That changed a few days later. In response, eight smokejumpers deployed to protect a Native allotment and cabin from the fire on Thursday. Two more joined a few days later. No structures have burned in the fire.
BLM AFS Galena Management Zone officials will work with refuge managers to keep close tabs on the situation and modify the response as needed. Both have reached out to Tribal and Native corporation leaders to help identify other sites of value to protect.
Meanwhile, windy conditions are predicted to continue in the next few days, which will likely continue to push wildfire growth. There is a chance temperatures will cool in the upcoming days.
Contact BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)356-5510 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Click on link for past East Fork Fire updates.