5,000-acre fire continues to burn outside Levelock

Aug 20, 2019

As of Tuesday at noon, no structures had been lost in the fire. Its exact size is difficult to determine due to heavy smoke coverage, and residents and smokejumpers are continuing to fight the blaze. 

Smoke billowing from the fire near Levelock on Aug. 19, 2019.
Credit Courtesy of Janice Chukwak

A wildfire estimated at 5,000 acres continues to burn at the edge of the Bristol Bay village of Levelock. At 9:00 p.m. Monday night, those fighting the fire reported that it had crossed some of the control lines on the west side of the village, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. However, residents and smokejumpers were able to contain those areas and prevent structural damage. 

“They were able to secure some of those spot fires that came in, knock them down, and try to make sure that they don’t do any damage to the buildings inside the village,” said Beth Ipsen, a spokesperson for the Alaska Fire Service.

Ipsen said those community members and smokejumpers are still working to keep the fire at bay, using heavy equipment to create barriers on the outside of the village. But while no structures have been lost, heavy smoke cover has made it difficult to determine the extent of the damage.

"Unfortunately there is smoke, a lot of smoke, heavy smoke in the area, so visibility has been hindered from it," Ipsen said. "But the smokejumpers on the ground estimate that it could be as large as 5,000 acres.”

Eight smokejumpers flew in to help residents combat the fire yesterday afternoon. They reported that the fire was 65% active in the tundra, with flames at one to two feet. Now, AFS is assessing the situation to decide whether additional firefighters are needed.

“They were going to conduct a burn operation to remove those burnable fuels in front of the fire, and to create that nice protective buffer around the southwestern edge of the village. And after they do that, then they were going to kind of assess things and see what more resources, more firefighters that are needed out there.”

The fire was about 2.5 miles north of the village when it was reported shortly after midnight on Monday morning. The state’s coordination center says it grew to the south in a straight path, running alongside the village. Residents worked through the night to fight the fire, constructing a protective barrier of soil around the community. As the smoke increased, people also self-evacuated, taking elders and children out of the village.

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org 907-842-2200.