Warm, dry weather expected to spread wildfires burning in upper Kuskokwim River region
Multiple wildfires are burning near communities in the Upper Kuskokwim River area.
The Aghaluk Mountain Fire is burning less than 10 miles southwest of Sleetmute and has reached 107,151 acres in size. Fifty-seven firefighters are working to protect structures in the area, and more firefighters arrived this past weekend to help.
Three other fires are burning around Lime Village, a village of 13 people. One fire to the northwest has reached nearly 69,420 acres, a second to the northeast has reached 38,379 acres, and a third to the southwest has reached 30,879 acres.
The state is sending firefighters to the area to build a buffer along the south side of Lime Village, according to Operations Sections Chief John Glover.
“We did start shuttling some equipment and supplies in there today [June 20], so you will see an increase in activity and firefighter presence in Lime Village itself,” Glover said in a video update from the Alaska Division of Forestry.
A little rain fell near Lime Village this weekend, slightly dampening the fires. But with warm, dry weather forecast for this week, those fires are expected to spread. Also, a lightning storm on June 19 may have ignited more fires that the state will be keeping an eye out for.
The state has established a fire response hub in Aniak to issue supplies to the surrounding fires. The state has assigned fire medics to the area and is setting up a radio communication system for fire crews.
“As those fires move, the supplies can be picked up at Aniak, dropped out to a landing zone. Four or five or six specialized firefighters can use that equipment, do this structure protection and move on to the next one," Alaska Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Kale Casey said.
Casey said that pilots and local residents should expect to see heavy air traffic.
“It's really important that folks understand that our aircraft are going to be all over the place. There's going to be different patterns and movement, and won't necessarily be predictable," Casey said. "So please keep an eye out for our aircraft, give them the right of way. We don't have temporary flight restrictions over the fire area. So for general aviation pilots, please: line of sight, keep our airspace clear. And of course, it's always a no-drone zone.”
Casey expects the fires to continue burning until significant rain falls. He said that the state is working to manage its supplies and personnel as the fire season intensifies.
There are 106 active wildfires burning in Alaska. Over 1 million acres of land have burned so far this year.