Two wildfires near villages in Southwest Alaska declared fully contained

by Alaska Division of Forestry

A fish camp prior to multiple structures being burned by the Kiktak Island Fire the next day. The fire was thought to be put out on Monday but it flared up again on Tuesday and burned the buildings. Photo taken by a local pilot on May 24, 2021.

Two human-caused wildfires that ignited near villages in rural Southwest Alaska earlier this week are now 100 percent contained and firefighters will spend another day mopping up before demobilizing.

The Pilot Point Fire (#104) near the village of Pilot Point on the Alaska Peninsula was declared fully contained at 7:33 p.m. Friday. Burned acreage remains at an estimated 3,750 acres.

The 26 firefighting personnel working on the fire will continue to grid the fire for any remaining hot spots today. A drone equipped with an infrared camera will be flown over the fire today to help identify any remaining sources of heat that need to be extinguished.

A full demobilization of firefighting personnel is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today (May 29th, 2021).

The Pilot Point Fire started on Monday when a fire escaped the village dump and spread into tundra grass surrounding the dump. Local residents tried to put the fire out but were unable to do so and called for help.

The Kiktak Island Fire (#112) near the village of Akiachak on the Kuskokwim River about 13 miles northeast of Bethel was declared fully contained at 8:02 p.m. Friday. The fire, which started Monday in a fish camp on a slough about 2 miles south of the village, burned an estimated 254 acres.

The 21-man White Mountain Crew from Fairbanks completed a grid 100 feet inside the perimeter of the fire on Friday and identified 20 hot spots that were extinguished. The crew will continue to grid the fire further inside the perimeter today to search for any remaining heat sources that need attention.

Pumps, hose and other equipment that was pulled from the fire on Friday was backhauled by aircraft.

All 23 personnel working on the fire will be demobilizing either Sunday or Monday depending on how many hot spots are identified during today’s Seek and Destroy mission.

The Kiktak Island Fire started on Monday and local residents thought they had put the fire out but it flared up on Tuesday and local responders called for help. A federal fire investigator is looking into the cause of the fire.


From May 28, 2021 post: The Kiktak island Fire (#112) near Akiachak was 50 percent contained as of Friday morning. The acreage increased slightly from 180 to 254 acres but that was primarily due to better mapping than increased fire behavior.

There were 23 personnel assigned to fire as of Friday morning, including the 21-man White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew and two BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers.

The fire started Monday near a fish camp on a slough of the Kuskokwim River about 2 miles south of Akiachak. Local residents tried to put the fire out and thought they were successful but the fire flared up Tuesday and smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service and the White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew were called in to control the fire. Retardant drops from two air tankers and helicopter water drops were used to slow the spread of the fire and help firefighters on the ground bring it under control.

On Thursday, the White Mountain Crew worked to extinguish hot spots identified on the east and west flanks and around the head of the fire. A flight on Thursday revealed no visible smoke on the fire.

Today, the White Mountain Crew began gridding the fire to seek out any remaining hot spots. As of 2 p.m., they had finished gridding about half the fire and found 11 hot spots that they extinguished. The crew should complete gridding the fire by the end of shift today.

The crew also began removing hoses, pumps and other supplies that are no longer needed to be backhauled off the fire.

If all goes according to plan, all firefighters will be demobilized from the fire sometime on Saturday.


From May 27, 2021: The Kiktak Island Fire (#112) burning near the village of Akiachak did not increase in size on Wednesday and was still estimated at 180 acres as of Thursday morning. No containment percentage was listed on the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center’s daily situation report.

The fire is burning along the south bank of a slough of the Kuskokwim River, about 2 miles south of Akiachak. The fire destroyed a total of 10 structures in a fish camp along the slough before 12 BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers arrived on scene.

The fire started on Monday night and local residents at the fish camp tried to put it out but it flared up on Tuesday and smokejumpers were called in. Using multiple retardant drops from two air tankers, as well as water drops from a helicopter, the smokejumpers worked Tuesday to secure the head of the fire by deploying hose lines and cutting a saw line around it.

Fire activity decreased significantly on Wednesday, according to fire managers, with no visible smoke observed on the west flank and minimal heat observed at the head and on the interior of the fire. Smokejumpers and a squad of Helitack from McGrath finished constructed saw line around the head of the fire and secured an area on the eastern flank on Wednesday.

The Fairbanks-based White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew arrived on the fire Wednesday and they will be working today to secure the head and east flank of the fire before beginning mop-up operations. The 10 buildings that were destroyed were a combination of cabins and outbuildings but it’s unclear exactly what the buildings were because they burned to the ground. There were several outbuildings in the fish camp. Smokejumpers were able to protect one primary structure from burning upon their arrival.