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Contact Creek fire grows to 7000 acres in Katmai National Park

220602 Contact Creek fire June 2 2022
Courtesy of the National Park Service
An aerial view of the Contact Creek Fire burning 38 miles southeast of King Salmon in a limited management area in Katmai National Park & Preserve. May 30, 2022.

The Contact Creek Fire in Katmai National Park is now estimated to exceed 7,000 acres. Around 60% of the fire has been naturally extinguished, however other areas of the fire are still growing.

Mark Sturm is the superintendent of Katmai National Park. He says the fire is slowly moving towards King Salmon, however the community isn’t in danger yet.

“The last number I heard, it was 38 miles from the King Salmon Area, so it is encroaching slowly in that direction, but it's still very remote,” he said. “We are seeing some smoke effects occasionally when the wind blows this direction over here in King Salmon from the fire.”

Sturm says the rain has likely helped slow the fire and hopes for more, however officials are still prepared to act in case of emergency.

“We're hopeful that we see some rain coming in the forecast sometime in the near future,” he said. “But if we don't we're certainly prepared to make it make a determination and start you know, start considering other management options.”

So far, the only structure affected has been weather monitoring equipment where they had treated before the fire moved through the area.

Southwest Alaska has seen an unusual amount of lightning lately and is one of the suspected causes of the Contact Creek Fire in Katmai National Park.

Rick Thoman is an Alaska climate specialist for the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. He says the Bristol Bay Area has had the perfect fixings for wildfires.

“The last several days, quite a bit of lighting across southwest Alaska, more so in our area here than anywhere else in the state,” Thoman said. “This of course has sparked off quite a few wildfires in the area and it’s been warm and dry enough some of those are starting to grow into quite substantial fires now.”

The fire was first detected early last week and Thoman says it has grown to be one of the largest on record for the area.

“There have been a handful larger, including the Snake River Fire right outside of Dillingham in 2012, but 6000 acres is a big wildfire for the upper Bristol Bay Region,” he said.

Park Superintendent Sturm says the fire remains shallow and slow.

“Right now it's a Tundra fire that's burning about three inches deep into the dust and so it's just a slow, slow burning fire that we hope will be extinguished naturally,” says Sturm.

The superintendent says, for now, the course of action is to monitor the situation daily and revisit management throughout the week.

More information about the fire can be found on the Katmai National Park website
or through the interagency Alaska fire information website.

Contact the author at Brian@kdlg.org or by calling (907) 842-2200

Brian Venua grew up in Dillingham and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. He got his start in journalism at KDLG in 2020, interviewing and writing for the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report and signed on as a full-time host and reporter later that year.
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