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Lightning started Paul's Creek Fire near King Salmon


The fire was reported Sunday night about seven miles from King Salmon. It was burning up to 25 acres with moderate activity yesterday. Because of its proximity to King Salmon and Naknek, the fire is under "full suppression" status. 

At the Twin Dragons restaurant in Dillingham, Fire Boss pilots David Fennan and Paul Wizner are eating a quick lunch while their planes are refueled. 

“We’re fighting a fire about seven miles northwest of King Salmon airport," Fennan said. "And we’re scooping off of this river right here, just south of the airport. The Naknek River.”

They are responding to yet another Bristol Bay fire, which was reported Sunday night. A smokejumper plane was flying near the village of Ekwok around 8:00 p.m. It had been dispatched to investigate a fire about three miles from the community. Storms had rolled over the region that evening, bringing thunder and lightning. While circling the area, another report came in – this time of a fire near King Salmon. Sam Harrel, a public information officer for the Division of Forestry, said the responders worked until early Monday morning to get a handle on the blaze.

“So they diverted to that area. And it was about eight acres at that time and actively burning in the tundra. So they went ahead and deployed eight of the smokejumpers,” he said.

The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center reports the Paul's Creek Fire was started by lightning. Because of its proximity to King Salmon and Naknek, it is under “full suppression” status. And according to Fennan, those efforts are paying off.

“We left the fire, it was looking pretty good," he said. "They did request us to go back, we’re getting fuel and we’re going to head back out there. The problem that they’re up against is they don’t have a water source close enough that they can get hoses on the fire line. So that’s why they called us in.”

Over in Naknek, volunteers from the Bristol Bay Borough fire department are ready to assist state responders if needed. 

“I went up and took a look from Naknek, drove up the highway and could see visible smoke out there," said Debra Jones, an EMS coordinator for the Bristol Bay Borough. "It is smoky in the middle of the flats there, kind of near the area where it’s at between Naknek and King Salmon. Some people are reporting smoke towards their different neighborhoods in the area.”

Right now, Jones isn’t worried about the fire’s threat to nearby communities; the past few days have brought relatively low winds and cool, dewy mornings. The closest structures to the fire are an abandoned house and the borough’s satellite dish station.

“In between the areas of the fire and these structures, there’s a lot of different lakes and ponds and swamp areas," she said. "From the highway up there, you can look out toward the area where the smoke – where the fire is, north from the highway.”

During a Division of Forestry reconnaissance flight of the region Monday, no new fires were spotted.

Contact the author at 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.