Season’s first major wildfire burns near Tok

North Robertson Fire burning near Tok.
(Alaska Division of Forestry)

The season’s first major wildfire response is underway near Tok. The North Robertson Fire, about 30 miles northwest of Tok is being fought from the air and on the ground.

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The North Robertson Fire has grown from just a few acres to eight hundred in less than a day. Alaska Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry said the blaze started Thursday morning near a trail and is suspected to be human caused. Mowry said flames moved quickly through black spruce forest, a couple miles from the Alaska Highway, and the blaze was hit hard with air drops.

”Aggressive aerial assault right off the bat with a couple of air tankers and a couple water scoopers,” Mowry said. “They were able to get a retardant line around the whole fire.”

Mowry said that’s allowed smoke-jumpers, aided by six ground crews, to get in and start pinching the fire off, and checking structures in the area.

”Going out and trying to locate the structures and assess them — what needs our structure protection if it comes to that,” Mowry said.

Mowry said wind has been pushing the fire toward the Robertson River, away from the Alcan.

”Traffic has not been impacted on the highway, both from the fire or smoke,” Mowry said.

Mowry stressed that there is potential for more activity.

”Really dry down in Tok and in Delta. They’ve had burn suspensions almost daily for the last week, week and a half,” Mowry said. “There was 80 degree temperature down on the Kenai yesterday, and things are really drying out, so we’re thinking there’s going to be some more fire activity around the state.”

Mowry noted that this year’s fire season in Alaska is ramping up weeks later than normal, and that state and federal firefighting agencies are fully geared up to respond.