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First Y-K Delta wildfire of 2024 burns itself out

The Atchuelinguk Fire, located roughly 33 miles north of the lower Yukon River community of Marshall, is seen burning on May 28, 2024.
BLM Alaska Fire Service
The Atchuelinguk Fire, located roughly 33 miles north of the lower Yukon River community of Marshall, is seen burning on May 28, 2024.

A large tundra fire north of the lower Yukon River that started at the end of May is no longer actively burning, according to the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service.

“As of the beginning of June, the last flight that was over the area didn't see any kind of smoke, no fire activity,” said Beth Ipsen, the agency’s public affairs specialist.

Ipsen said that at its peak, the Atchuelinguk Fire, which occurred around 33 miles north of Marshall within the boundaries of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, grew to roughly 800 acres.

“That area actually has a lot of water. In fact, we believe it was pretty flooded, because one of the Native allotments that we thought could be threatened by the fire in the future was actually underwater,” Ipsen said.

Ipsen said that the fire occurred in an area where blazes are allowed to play out when not threatening known sites of value or people. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

“In this case, it did its thing in burning through dry grass in the spring and just kind of petered out,” Ipesen said. “We’re continuing to keep it in monitor status, just because it's a large fire, but at some point it will be called out.”

The Atchuelinguk Fire is the only large wildfire seen so far this year on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. But in 2022, a fire burned more than 10,000 acres of tundra roughly 25 miles east of the lower Kuskokwim River community of Kwethluk. At the time, the fire was determined to be the state’s largest April wildfire in 25 years.

Ipsen said that keeping an eye on fires across millions of acres of wilderness is possible due to a combination of advanced mapping technology and geographical location.

“What's really nice is that we're so far north that we have sometimes 21 passes by satellites a day to help us out with that imagery, that we can sit at our desk and kind of see what's going on statewide,” Ipsen said.

As of June 14, there had been a total of 125 fires across the state in 2024, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, with the largest being the more than 32,000-acre McDonald Fire currently burning south of Fairbanks.

Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.
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