Smokejumpers protecting cabin, Native allotment from East Fork Fire north of St. Mary’s

This photo was taken on June 4 from a smokejumper aircraft flying over the fire area while the two additional smokejumpers deployed to help protect a Native Allotment and cabin from the East Fork Fire near St. Mary's. Photo by BLM AFS

by the BLM Alaska Fire Service

Update June 4, 2022: Two more smokejumpers joined the effort today to protect a cabin and Native allotment from the East Fork Fire (#160) burning along the Andreafsky River 25 miles north of St. Mary’s. Yesterday’s wind pushed the fire through tundra and away from the allotment.

The 10 smokejumpers on the ground anticipate having a few days of work ahead of them. Additionally, this will allow fire personnel to be in the area if they are needed to move to other allotments and cabins that need protection from the 7,000-acre fire burning in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. This lightning-caused fire started May 31.

Update June 3, 2022:

Eight smokejumpers mobilized Thursday evening to the East Fork Fire (#160) along the Andreafsky River 25 miles North of St. Mary’s. The smokejumpers are protecting a cabin and a native allotment in close proximity to the fire. They anticipate having a few days of work ahead of them to ensure the fire won’t impact the allotment. Additionally, this will allow fire personnel to be in the area if they are needed to move to other allotments and cabins that need protection from the 2,000-acre fire burning in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. This lightning-caused fire started Tuesday.

BLM AFS Galena Zone personnel will continue to monitor the rest of the East Fork fire as the summer progresses. The fire is burning in tundra, grass and brush in Western Alaska. Temperatures are predicted to be warm and dry today with winds of 7-12 mph and gusting to 20. The main part of the fire is expected to grow.

Original information posted June 2, 2022:

BLM Alaska Fire Service is closely monitoring a large lightning-caused tundra fire burning in the Yukon Delta Wildlife Refuge about 25 miles north of St. Mary’s.

The East Fork Fire (#160) was estimated at 1,800 acres when flown by a helicopter Wednesday night. Galena Zone Fire Management officials are also utilizing satellite to keep tabs on the fire as it burns within a mile of a cabin and Native allotment on the Andreafsky River. A riparian area separates the cabin and fire’s edge. Fire officials are prepared to mobilize smokejumpers prepositioned in Galena if the fire crosses a creek and progresses toward the cabin.

Galena Zone personnel flew over the area in the past two days and identified all other sites of value. There are other Native allotments and a cabin farther north on the Andreafsky River that are not immediately threatened by the fire.

When the fire was discovered by BLM AFS personnel on Tuesday, it was initially about 50 acres in size and slowly burning and smoldering through grass and shrubs in a limited management option area. The west winds pushed the fire east up hilly terrain away from the cabin and into an area with less burnable vegetation. Today’s weather (June 2nd, 2022) includes hot and dry weather with light winds.

As long as it isn’t immediately threatening any sites of value, fire officials will manage the East Fork Fire to allow it function in its natural ecologic role. The Galena Zone will adjust frequency of monitoring flights as weather and conditions warrant.

Contact BLM Alaska Fire Service Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907) 356-5510 or [email protected] for more information.

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