Crews Battle 2500 Acre Wildfire Near Whitefish Lake

Several fires were started Sunday with lightening. Images from Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.
Several fires were started Sunday with lightening. Images from Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

More than 80 firefighters are battling a 25-hundred acre blaze near Whitefish Lake. The fire south of Kalskag and the Kuskokwim River is one of about a dozen that were started by lightening on Sunday. Tim Mowry is the Public Information Officer for the Alaska Division of Forestry. He says smoke-jumpers and four crews were dispatched to the fire.

“For air resources we have a CL-215: a big water scooping aircraft working it, and also three water scooping airplanes called ‘Fire Bosses,’” said Mowry.

Managers don’t believe there are any structures at risk, but they want to prevent it from reaching village corporation lands. It is currently burning on Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge lands.

The fire started as two individual blazes Sunday, but Mowry say crews planned to join them Tuesday them to simplify the allocation of resources.

“Right now they’re just dropping water, trying to keep it from spreading because it’s burning on the refuge we have only a few spots where we can use retardant, so now they’re using water to try to get it under control,” said Mowry.

It’s currently burning a mix of black spruce and tundra grasses.

“Most of the fire is in light fuels, tundra and open country, it’s susceptible to rain if it falls. The forecast is calling for wetter weather moving into the area,” said Mowry.

Other fires with a staffed response include the 40-acre Getmuna fire northwest of Crooked Creek, which is now mostly contained. A 17-acre fire at nearby Little Creek was declared contained on Monday. Crews are keeping an eye on a small fire in the Lime Village area, which they believe could turn into a larger fire if conditions are right.

While green up has arrived in many places, Mowry says the tundra is still quite dry to the east. And with the arrival of summer comes more lightening storms and more human activity that can cause fires. Mowry encourages extra caution and vigilance.

“Just for people to be aware, if they’re are out and about and see smoke, please report it to the division of forestry,” said Mowry.

Nearly 11,000 acres statewide have burned so far this year.

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Ben Matheson is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

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