Crews Stage in Kalskag to Quell An Upshot in Wildfires

Fire officials are moving crews off the Whitefish Lake fire to Lower Kalskag as a staging area for protecting homes and other communities threatened by fires. Crews had been working to establish a fire line on the northern edge, but are now changing strategy.

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More than 70 wildfires burn in southwest Alaska. Map from Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.
More than 70 wildfires burn in southwest Alaska. Map from Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

Francis Mitchell is with the state Division of Forestry.

“They would be there available for quick response to Kalskag, Chuathbaluk, Aniak, because there are fires near those communities,” said Mitchell.

Crews removed hose from along the western interior line so that it could be redeployed for structure protection. The fire grew more than 1500 acres going into Monday. It’s not controlled and has gone beyond the perimeter.

There are now more than 70 active fires in southwest Alaska, and 20 started Monday from lightning.

Because firefighters and aircraft are dealing with hundreds of fires around the state, only fires that directly threaten communities or occupied structures will receive staff.

Mitchell says the Kalskag crew is stationed near the runway to be ready to move.

“Ever changing and fluid, that’s kind of the way operations are today. The focus is on getting the few crews in the southwest area at staging points where they can be quickly deployed to fires that threaten life,” said Mitchell.

In Crooked Creek, crews laid down hose, set up sprinklers, and prepped the town for point protection. Fire personnel will continue to focus on the western edge of the town, while securing multiple structures and sites. The fire is still 3.5 miles from Crooked Creek.

The Yukon village of Nulato was evacuated yesterday as a fast moving fire threatened the villages. Residents traveled by boat to Galena. KTUU reports that about 50 people evacuated, and another 100 sheltered in place. The airport is socked in with smoke, so the only way to travel is by boat.

Officials say one secondary structure has been destroyed and 100 home are threatened. A burn ban remains in effect for southwest Alaska.

Ben Matheson is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

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