Fifty elders and children have been evacuated from the community of Nulato, where a nearby lightening-sparked fire has now grown to 1,200 acres. In a show of strong local response, about 100 people remain sheltered in place to fight the fire.
Smoke is obstructing flight statewide, so Nulato residents had to evacuate by boat. That’s according to Kale Casey, public information officer at the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.
“Nulato is a boat village. They live on the Yukon—that’s where they are, so they know how to get around the river just fine. So the airstrip being closed wasn’t the biggest deal, it just makes it a lot further to the next village,” said Casey.
The fire began in the afternoon on June 21, with a handful of other blazes to the north and west of Nulato. Evacuation to Galena began shortly after, as spot fires moved closer to town.
Casey says those spot fires have been extinguished and burnout operations continue through an adept local crew.
“This is a village that has been providing emergency firefighter crews to the Alaska Fire Service for 50 years. And in fact, their crew was down at the Sockeye Fire and they had another 15 or 20 of their firefighters back in the village who hadn’t gotten their qualifications yet for the season done, so it wasn’t like the village was completely unprotected when the fire happened,” he said.
With 278 fires now spread across the state, Casey says more responders are en route to Alaska.
“We have resources coming in from all over the [Lower] 48 sates: the sweatshirts say Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, Kentucky, and Georgia,” he said. “Everybody is being called up that can be called up.”
Nulato residents remaining in the community have an evacuation plan in place should they need to relocate.
Meanwhile, near the interior village of Tanana, the Tozitna Fire encroached within 5 miles of the community. It’s currently being fought by the Helena Hotshot Crew, plus additional responders who arrived yesterday.
Casey reminds all Alaskans that a statewide burn ban is in effect. That means no charcoal grills, burn pits, campfires, or debris burning. Gas grills and backpacking stoves that use fuel or compressed canisters may be used if they can be regulated and easily shut off.