Weather Temporarily Gives Firefighters An Edge in Aniak

Aniak and Chuathbaluk are receiving favorable winds today, cutting down on the smoke and fire danger. The fire across the river from Aniak has grown to 27,000 acres.  Bill Wilson is Aniak’s Mayor.

“The fire is paralleling on the opposite side of the river of where the runway and town is here. It’s worked its way about halfway down the runway at this point.  You can see it, Most is further off the shore, it’s touched down in a few places at the shoreline. The smoke is think, it’s blowing toward the Russian Mountains and towards the north more.

Two crews are in Aniak to do point protection in the off chance that the fire moves across the river.

“With the winds the way they are, there’s no chance of it jumping across unless we had another thunderstorm at this point.”

Three flights of at-risk people were evacuated to Bethel yesterday to stay out of the thick smoke. Near Chuathbaluk, the approximately 5,000-acre Mission Creek Fire was 1.3 miles from the old airport and is visible from town. Two hotshot crews are also doing site protection in Chuathbaluk.   There had been discussion of moving a large amount of people to Aniak from Chuathbaluk, but Wilson says there’s no need to at the moment.

“We’re still prepared, we have plan ready, places for people to come. We have food and boats to run there.  Until there’s a more imminent threat, they’re going to stay put and hold their homes.”

Francis Mitchell is with the state Division of Forestry. He says farther upriver, the Red Devil fire has been threatened the community.

“Late yesterday, the fire got within 1,000 feet of the village, there were a couple air tanker drops of retardant drops in that knocked it down pretty well. There are fire fighters in there, two crews.”

Forty-eight people are working to protect Red Devil.  Three crews members are in Crooked Creek, which has been prepared for site protection. Others crews are making a fire line around Lime Village.

Closer to Bethel, a 1,000 acre fire is burning southeast of Kwethluk, but officials say nothing is at risk now.  This weekend, firefighters might get a little break from the weather.

“At least swaths of rain, not big rain, not putting out fire rain, but dampening down fire type of rain, maybe in that lime village and middle Kuskokwim area. rain will help in several places, but it’s probably not going to last long, as far was we’re being told.”

More than 230,000 acres have burned in Southwest Alaska. There are 78 active fires in the region and 317 statewide.