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Dozens of Fires Pop Up in Southwest Alaska Due to Lightning Strikes, More to Come

An aerial overview of a wildfire in southwestern Alaska
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2017)

Over the weekend, the Norton Sound saw several lightning strikes spark new wildfires across the region, mostly in the southwest. More than 20 blazes were started across the state within the last two days, burning more than 5,000 acres thus far.

“Most of the lightning has been out in Southwest Alaska, although as of Sunday it expanded to the Canadian border.”

– Beth Ipsen

Beth Ipsen, a spokesperson for the Alaska Fire Service (AFS), told APRN that information yesterday.

Yesterday morning, Ipsen and the AFS received a report of a blaze about 15 miles east of Unalakleet started by lightning. Smoke jumpers and water-scooping aircraft are currently fighting the 20-acre fire, with more crew-members expected to arrive on scene later today. A separate 10-acre fire north of Unalakleet, called North Fork, was also started by lightning and contained by 5pm last night.

Further south, a couple blazes near St. Michael from Saturday are being monitored, and then yesterday, several new fires sprang up 15 miles or so north of Marshall in the Yukon River Delta.

The Center Slough fire, west of Marshall, is within a couple miles of a Native allotment so the AFS requested smokejumpers to fight this blaze. However, Ipsen says due to limited resources and higher priority fires, no action was taken as of yesterday.

According to today’s report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, there are currently 37 active fires that have burned more than 5,500 acres in Alaska. Ipsen told APRN that with the many lightning strikes across the state recently, it’s possible more fires could be detected in the coming days.

Image at top: Fires burning somewhere in southwest Alaska. Photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2017.

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