Fires spreading rapidly toward Alaskan Native settlements
High winds in western Alaska have pushed a fire within miles of an Alaska Native community.
Officials from the US Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service said that the East Fork Fire was within 8 miles of St. Mary’s.
The fire has spread over nearly 50,000 acres, with about 5,000 acres burned on the western side of the Andreafsky River. The blaze crossed the river on Tuesday afternoon.
No evacuation orders have been issued in response to the fire’s expansion and no structures have been burned.
The agency said the BLM Alaska Fire Service Chena Hotshots started sawing a fuel break north of nearby villages in case the fire continues to move south, and that another crew would arrive to aid that effort.
Over the weekend, the Alaska Type 2 Incident Management Green Team will take over management due to its proximity to numerous Native allotments, historical sites and communities.
The fire has experienced “significant growth” late into the evening due to wind, quickly burning through tundra, vegetation and black spruce trees.
Red flag conditions were expected to cool on Friday, although northern winds are forecast to persist.
A temporary flight restriction was placed over the fire area to provide safe airspace for firefighting aircraft. There are 10 smokejumpers assigned to the fire.
“BLM AFS Galena Management Zone officials will work with refuge managers to keep close tabs on the situation and modify the response as needed,” forest service wrote. “Both have reached out to Tribal and Native corporation leaders to help identify other sites of value to protect.”
Three new large fires were reported on Wednesday, including two in Alaska and the Alaska area increased its preparedness level.
The Kichatna Fire is now 75% contained, with an updated acreage of 65, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.