Fire Crews Scramble to Protect Village on the Koyukuk

Fire crews are defending the Koyukuk River village of Hughes from a wildfire approaching from the east.

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The Rock Fire is about 34,000 acres in size, and showed moderate fire behavior yesterday. At last report, the fire was about 2 miles away from Hughes, and on the same side of the Koyukuk River as the village.

Crews conducted a burnout just to the east of Hughes to create a fire break.

Public Information Officer Kale Casey at Alaska Fire Service Headquarters on Fort Wainwright says that managers and crews have had plenty of time to prepare for this situation.

Casey says that the burnout operation was successful at eliminating most of the unburned fuels between Hughes and the edge of the Rock Fire, and the threat of the fire entering the village has been significantly reduced.

The Hughes Fire is barely inside the western border of the Tanana Fire Management Zone, though the use of aircraft based at Tanana or Fairbanks has been limited recently by smoky skies.

Casey says that at this point in the fire season, the use of aircraft to assist with firefighting operations is dependent on smoke conditions.

A helicopter based at Bettles has been doing water drops on the fire and transporting crews. Any large aircraft needed to fight the fire would likely come from Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks.

Over 100 people are assigned to the Hughes fires.

Hughes is located about 200 miles northwest of Fairbanks. According to 2010 census data, the population is 78 people.