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Fire Service Says Two Blazes Smoking off of Kougarok Road Will Continue To Burn

A landscape of a metal bridge, creek, and tundra stretching to the horizon, with puffs of smoke arising from a wildfire about a half-mile away.

Over the weekend, lightning sparked new wildfires to life on the Seward Peninsula, including one at the end of the Kougarok Road outside of Nome.

According to the Alaska Fire Service, in a period of three days, 11 fires were started by lightning within the Galena Zone, an area that stretches 93 million acres. Cathie Harms, a spokesperson for the joint information center on Alaska Wildfires, says only three of those are currently staffed, while the rest are being monitored. That includes the Garfield Creek fire.

“Fire #550 is called the Garfield Creek fire; it was started by lightning, discovered on the 13th, and we assume it was started shortly before then. It was estimated yesterday at about five acres. It’s in a limited protection zone, which means firefighters are not likely to attempt to change the status of this fire; they’re going to allow the fire to play its role on the landscape. It was within two miles of the end of the Kougarok Road.”

According to Harms, neither the Garfield Creek fire nor the Hooligan Creek fire, also located off the Kougarok Road, are threatening property or life at this time. Both are at least 50 miles north of Nome. 

So, if you are traveling in the area in the near future, Harms says expect to see smoke, as the blazes will not be extinguished anytime soon.

“And it’s not possible, it’s not practical, and it’s not advisable to put all of these fires out, because they play a role in the ecosystem. In fact, in Interior Alaska, it’s considered a fire-dependent ecosystem where some species of plants won’t even sprout unless their seeds have been burned. So it’s a necessary thing in Alaska, but the goal is to protect people and property.”

As of yesterday (Monday), more than 60 fires have burned close to 113,000 acres in the Galena Zone, which includes communities from Shishmaref to Deering and areas in-between. 

One of the most threatening blazes currently in this zone is the Mauneluk River fire, off of the Kobuk River roughly 30 miles southeast of Ambler. Eight smokejumpers are currently working to keep that 1,000-acre fire away from fish camps and cabins.

Image at top: A wildfire viewed near the end of the Kougarok Road, mid-July 2019. Photo: KNOM.