Port Heiden's Offal Beach Fire burning across 1,100 acres at 50% activity

Aug 22, 2019

An Alaska Fire Service aircraft that surveyed the fire yesterday reported low activity, with west winds at 25 - 27 miles per hour. 

A volunteer at the edge of a fire about 11 miles outside of Port Heiden, August 2019.
Credit Courtesy of Jaclyn Christensen

Update Aug. 23, 2019:

The Alaska Fire Service reports that the Offal Beach Fire is burning across 1,100 acres and is 50% active. An AFS aircraft that surveyed the fire yesterday reported low activity, with west winds at 25 - 27 miles per hour. The fire is 9.5 miles from the village of Port Heiden.

Original article Aug. 22, 2019:

The 450-acre Offal Beach Fire is burning for the fifth consecutive day about 11 miles northeast of Port Heiden. As of Wednesday evening it was 35 - 40% contained, according to Tribal Council President John Christensen, who is among those fighting the blaze.

“We had a crew up there at the fire until 3 a.m. when the smoke switched on to them. Now we are – they went up earlier and we’re getting more people up there right now," he said.

People from Anchorage, Dillingham, Chignik and Ugashik have traveled to Port Heiden to help locals fight the fire. The crew is made up of about 20 volunteers, with others providing support from the village. They also received a new shipment of supplies and two ATVs this morning to help with transportation. Christensen said that assistance is much needed.

“Everybody’s tired. It’s… some people are getting dizzy, again yesterday, from all the smoke. And just… we had some rain today so that helped out. But the people are still really tired they're a bunch of fire zombies,” he said.

Though the rain tamped down the flames somewhat, Christensen said, the wind has shifted to the northeast today, blowing smoke back toward the village. This summer's lack of rain makes working the fire especially difficult.   

“There was like a brief period of rain at the end of July, but that was the only thing we had in two months," he explained. "Our rivers are a couple feet shallower. It’s just – it’s really dry and dusty.”

The Alaska Fire Service says the Offal Beach Fire is in a limited response area, meaning it does not pose an immediate threat to the village.

The Offal Beach Fire early in the week of Aug. 19, 2019.
Credit Courtesy of Jaclyn Christensen

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