Firefighters slow Tok Cutoff fire by dropping retardant

The spread of a wildfire near the Tok Cutoff has been slowed. Firefighters are dropping retardant on the Cutoff Fire, which has spread to about 40 acres and is burning a a little too close to the highway, according to fire information officer Tim Mowry.

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“It got withing a mile of the road, but we were able to knock the fire down with air retardant and we’ve got a couple crews down there and they’ll be mopping up the fire today,” Mowry said.

Air retardant tankers from the Alaska Division of Forestry were able to box the fire in and prevent it from reaching the road.

“In the beginning, because it was at the boundary of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, water wasn’t effective, so they got permission to drop retardant,” Mowry said.

Helicopters are now being used to drop water on the fire while firefighters from the Tanana region are positioned for direct suppression tactics.

The Cutoff Fire was one of at least two wildfire started in the Copper River Basin area Wednesday night that were started by lightning strikes.

The other fire, the Chistochina River Fire, was reported at approximately 7 acres about 20 miles east of Paxson Lake on the Richardson Highway.

Wednesday evening, air attack personnel reported that the fire had grown to 60 acres and was 100 percent active burning in black spruce. Two cabins could be threatened by that fire. The Chistochina River Fire will be monitored by fire managers to determine if structure protection measures are necessary.

Mowry said it is likely that more lightening caused fires will be reported today, in the Copper Basin and in the McGrath area.

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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen