Public Media for Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Officials say evacuations unlikely as Aghaluk Mountain Fire burns near Sleetmute and Red Devil

Katie Basile
Sleetmute, where wildfires are currently burning less than 15 miles away, is pictured here on August 16, 2019.

The Aghaluk Mountain Fire is burning near the upper Kuskokwim River, about 10 miles Southwest of Sleetmute and 12.5 miles from Red Devil. It’s grown to roughly 95,000 acres, creating smoky skies over the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta villages.

Alaska Division of Forestry Spokesman Brentwood Reid said that eight smokejumpers and a 22-member hotshot crew headed to the region over the weekend to fight the fire. Reid said that the focus right now is on Sleetmute.

“Today, what they’re going to be doing is prioritizing structural protection on two homes that are occupied,” Reid said. “That’s the priority. And then start preparing the community in the event that the fire continues to move in that direction. There was no real movement yesterday.”

There are currently 85 wildfires burning in Alaska as of June 13, with seven of them staffed. While a detection aircraft crew estimated the Aghaluk Mountain Fire to be about 125,000 acres, Reid said that due to heavy smoke, it’s likely that the fire is still between 95,000 and 100,000 acres.

Sleetmute resident Tim Andreanoff said that he started to notice the smoke going into the weekend.

“About three or four days ago it started getting real smoky,” Andreanoff said. “We woke up one morning, we couldn’t even see across the river.”

As of now, Andreanoff said that he’s waiting on word from local fire officials before he starts to prepare for an evacuation. Reid says that doesn’t look likely.

“That’s not an area where the fire is going to probably roll through and endanger people. So it’s very unlikely we’re going to see evacuations for that area, I would say,” Reid said. “But they do want to make sure the homes are prepared so as the fire comes, if it comes in different little waves here and there, they’re able to defend the structures.”

Meanwhile, over in Red Devil, Reid said that the community is in slightly better shape, largely due to a fire from a few years ago.

“They had a big fire in 2019 just to the west of Red Devil, so there’s a big fire scar,” Reid said. “But Red Devil could be impacted. They did reconnaissance last night to determine what the priority for doing preparations in Red Devil will be.”

In the meantime, Andreanoff in Sleetmute said that it’s starting to rain, which he’s hopeful will slow the fire down.

Both Sleetmute and Red Devil qualified for state grant relief after spring flooding damaged the communities in May.

Related Content