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Upper Talarik fire damages Pebble Mine supply camp

Pebble Site 2017
Pebble Partnership
/
The Pebble Partnership supply camp in 2017

The Upper Talarik fire caused significant damage to a Pebble Mine supply camp, about 17 miles from the village of Iliamna.

Mike Heatwole, a spokesperson for the Pebble Partnership, said the fire burned through Pebble’s supply camp over the 4th of July holiday weekend.

No injuries were reported, however Heatwole said the camp had stored equipment for exploration that was destroyed.

The fire covered nearly 7,986 acres, according to an update from the Alaska Division of Forestry on July 6.

Kale Casey, public information officer for the Division of Forestry, says the Incident Management Team was monitoring the Upper Talarik Fire until June 30. There had been no indication that the fire would move toward the Pebble supply camp.

On June 30, a strong wind blowing smoke from the Lime Complex fires and a low cloud cover blocked visibility of the supply camp. Casey said that when the air cleared on July 3, the Management Team discovered the damage to Pebble’s supplies.

Heatwole described the damage of supplies as a near total loss.

“What used to be a very colorful tundra landscape is now quite charred,” Heatwole said. “Most of what we had there has burned up. In some cases tents, canvas tents, supported by metal. The metal, you know, got quite hot and collapsed. So it's not really salvageable.”

Heatwole said the fire also burned wooden pallets and railroad ties used to minimize the impact of drilling, along with tools to maintain the site’s equipment.

Pebble sent workers to the site today and the company is still working with fire managers to take stock of the fire’s impact. The company doesn’t know how much this will affect Pebble’s operations long term yet.

Casey said this year’s fire season is unprecedented.

“We reached 1 million acres of wildfire-impacted landscape 10 days before we ever have in the recorded history of Alaska,” Casey said.

Heatwole emphasized how much the Pebble Partnership appreciates the Management Team’s response to the fires.

“It's a fire, it's devastating, but it's just things, right? There was no one harmed. And that's a much better story,” Heatwole said.

Casey said more information will be made public once a thorough assessment is completed.

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

Update: additional information was added regarding the timeline of the fire and how it was discovered.

Katherine is covering local stories in Dillingham and the Bristol Bay area for the summer of 2022, and she's excited to be in Alaska for the first time. She's passionate about all forms of storytelling, and she recently graduated from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, a 15-week intensive in radio and podcast production. When not working on stories or hosting the morning news, Katherine enjoys cooking, reading, and going on aimless walks. She'll pet any dog that wants attention.
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