Crews Battle New Wildfires in Southwest Region

Current_Fires_Map_at_the_Alaska_Interagency_Coordination_Center_-_Mozilla_Firefox_7312013_94853_AMIt’s hoped that a change in the weather will calm down wildfires that have flared up in Southwestern Alaska.

Two fires were ignited by lightning in the Nushagak drainage, west of Koliganek; and, for the second time this summer, a fire this summer is threatening Lime Village.

The Can Creek fire on the south side of the Stony river is about 7 miles east of Lime Village, tripled in size Tuesday, says state fire management officer Mike Ruse.

“And it’s burning very aggressively,” Ruse said. “It’s very, very dry there and that’s a very volatile fuel type of black spruce, open tundra.”

“We tried to catch it as a small fire, but unfortunately we had a 10-mile-an-hour wind pushing the fire and we were doing fairly well at keeping up with it, running air tankers, smoke jumpers helitack units.”

An abrupt change in winds from the west to the north complicated the attempt to quickly control the fire.

“We had a 90-degree wind shift on the fire and what that means is then that whole, hot flank of the fire, side of the fire, now turns into what we call the head,” Ruse said. “So, what was a 300-yard-wide fire suddenly changed into a fire that was a mile wide traveling 90 degrees in a different direction.”

“At that point we didn’t have the resources to suppress the fire, so we pulled back into Lime Village.”

Seventy fires are still active in Alaska. To date, 528 fires have burned over a million acres statewide.