Medfra Fire grows to more than 1,600 acres, firefighters battling winds

A photo taken Sunday of the Medfra Fire burning about 50 miles northeast of McGrath along the north bank of the North Fork Kuskokwin River. (Photo by Jason Jordet/Alaska Division of Forestry)
A photo taken Sunday of the Medfra Fire burning about 50 miles northeast of McGrath along the north bank of the North Fork Kuskokwin River. (Photo by Jason Jordet/Alaska Division of Forestry)

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Crews are battling a large blaze about 50 miles northeast of McGrath, dubbed the Medfra Fire. The fire is about 20 miles from the small community of Medfra.

Tim Mowry with the Alaska Division of Forestry said the fire is more than 1,600 acres on Monday.

Wind has been pushing the fire, he said.

“[The fire is] actually burning sort of parallel to the north fork of the Kuskokwim River and [firefighters are] just trying to keep it on that side of the Kuskokwim right now,” he said Monday. “Hopefully, the wind will cooperate. It’s still pretty windy out there.”

A release by the Alaska Division of Forestry said the fire sparked in an old burn area, and spread into an unburned area with fresh fuel.

Smokejumpers and Type 2 emergency firefighting crews from McGrath, Nikolai, Upper and Lower Kalskag, Nondalton, and Palmer are on the scene.

Air retardant tankers have also been deployed to help quell the blaze.

Mowry does not think Medfra or McGrath are in danger as the fire is at a considerable distance and burning in a remote area, Mowry said. The fire is considered a holdover from the Soda Creek fire that burned more than 16,000 acres last year.

“That’s the thing about Alaska, we have a lot of bog, we have a lot of peat and these fires get themselves buried down into that stuff and they’re pretty resistant to anything at that point, snow rain,” he said.

“But that’s just part of what makes Alaska, Alaska, because it’s a very fire prone eco-system and it’s very resistant to fire suppression, even a year later.”

He said there was a holdover flare-up on the Kenai Peninsula recently from last year’s Card Street fire and even a flare from the two year-old Funny River fire.

Burn bans are in place in many parts of Southcentral Alaska.

As Alaskans conclude their Memorial day camping trips, it’s important to thoroughly put out campfires before they head home, Mowry said.