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Iowithla River fire still burns, state continues to monitor

Iowithla Fire
Brian Venua
Smoke from the Iowithla River fire on Wednesday evening, viewed from Kanakanak Beach

The Bristol Bay region has seen multiple wildfires this month. The Iowithla River fire has expanded to 36,559 acres this week and is 10.5 miles northeast of Dillingham. Brentwood Reid, a public information officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry, said Wednesday the fire is being actively monitored.

“We sent an aerial detection aircraft out there and they took a look at it yesterday, and we also are monitoring with satellites. And right now, there’s only activity on the northwest corner of the fire,” he said.

The fire is 14 miles from Aleknagik, and although it is expanding in other directions, it has not gotten any closer to the community. Last week, fire boss planes dropped water in the area on its southwest border near Wood River. Reid said there’s no heat in the southeast corner where the fire is pinned between the Iowithla River and a creek.

“Right now it’s just kind of creeping, it was backing into the wind yesterday. So it’s very little growth although that edge is hot and it’s slowly moving to the north northwest,” he said.

Because the Iowithla fire is not an immediate threat, officials are focused on other fires.

“At this point, with all the fire activity happening statewide, we are just prioritizing fires that are threatening structures and communities,” said Reid.

Still, the nearest structures are only four miles from the flames and the Division of Forestry will continue to monitor the situation.

The Kokwok River fire 40 miles north of Dillingham near the Wood-Tikchik State Park is no longer active. As of Tuesday, it had burned a total of 30,845 acres, and there was no visible smoke.

Smoke can reduce air quality and cause breathing problems for sensitive or compromised individuals and the Dillingham Fire Department recommends wearing an N-95 mask when outdoors. Masks are available at city hall and in the boat harbor. Rain swept through Bristol Bay this past weekend, however this week is forecasted to be warm and dry. A burn ban is in effect in Dillingham until further notice.

Get in touch with the author at katherine@kdlg.org or call (907) 842-2200.

Correction: An older version of this article insinuated the fire was pinned between the Iowithla River and a creek to the east of the river, when the southeast border of the fire was pinned between the Iowithla River and a creek to the west.

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