More personnel ordered as East Fork Fire moves within 8 miles of St. Mary’s

(FAIRBANKS, Alaska) – BLM Alaska Fire Service wildland fire managers continue to ramp up efforts to protect Native allotments, cabins and nearby communities from the East Fork Fire as wind pushed the to within 8 miles of St. Mary’s.

About 5,000 of the almost 50,000-acre fire burned on the west side of the Andreafsky River after it crossed the river Tuesday afternoon. There is no evacuation order in place for St. Mary’s or nearby villages. There is a public meeting scheduled in St. Mary’s at 3 p.m. today.

The priorities on the incident are still public and firefighter safety, and protecting sites of value, including Native allotments and cabins along the Andreafsky and East Fork Andreafsky rivers as well as St. Mary’s and neighboring villages of Pilot Station, Pitkas Point and Mountain Village. The BLM Alaska Fire Service Chena Hotshots started sawing a fuel break north of these villages to protect it in case the fire continues to head south along the river corridor. The Type 2 North Star Fire Crew is scheduled to arrive today to help Chena Hotshots with this effort.

On Saturday, the Alaska Type 2 Incident Management Green Team will take over management due to its proximity to numerous Native allotments, historical sites and communities. 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 week, 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. This wind also brought smoke into town this morning. The fire is quickly burning through a mixture of tundra, brush with pockets of black spruce trees.

Near red flag conditions are expected again today before cooling tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service. The cooling trend is predicted to continue through the weekend as an upper-level trough moves over the area. However, the north winds are forecasted to persist and even strengthen at times as this trough moves long the Alaska Range.

On Tuesday, the fire spotted in multiple locations and, despite the best efforts of an air assault by water-scoopers, retardant airtankers and helicopters doing bucket drops, grew very rapidly. The 10 smokejumper assigned to the fire are now protecting a Native allotments and cabins on the west side of the river while BLM Alaska Fire Service Galena Zone fire managers reorganize the efforts on the fire. No structures have burned.

A temporary flight restriction was placed over the fire area to provide a safe airspace for firefighting aircraft. 

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. Click on link for past East Fork Fire updates.

Contact BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)388-2159 for more information.

Acres burned: 49,904Start date: May 31Cause: LightningPersonnel: 51
Map for East Fork Fire (#160) for June 9, 2022.
Map for East Fork Fire (#160) for June 9, 2022.

Categories: Active Wildland Fire, AK Fire Info, BLM Alaska Fire Service, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge


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