UPDATE: Trumpeter Fire now 75 percent contained; widespread burn ban begins

Firefighters conduct a small burnout operation along a four-wheeler trail while fighting the...
Firefighters conduct a small burnout operation along a four-wheeler trail while fighting the Trumpeter Fire on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.(KTUU)
Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 6:16 PM AKDT
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UPDATE, Friday, May 1, 7 p.m.:

The Trumpeter Fire, now at 130 acres, is estimated to be 75 percent contained as of Friday.

The 10-acre increase in size is the result of more accurate mapping, according to officials, and not additional fire activity.

Many of the firefighters who have been working the fire have begun mop-up operations, officials said, in order to seek out and extinguish any remaining hot spots.

"The biggest danger at this point for firefighters is not the fire itself but fire-weakened trees that pose a risk of falling as firefighters conduct mop-up operations," officials wrote in an update Friday. "Hazard trees are being identified and removed by sawyers on crews to mitigate the danger."

UPDATE, Friday, May 1, 1 p.m.:

Containment of the Trumpeter Fire has been bumped up to at least 40 percent, officials said, after crews made headway Thursday evening.

Teams are mostly from the Pioneer Peak Hotshots and Gannett Glacier Crew, which are both based in Palmer and will both remain in place through Friday, "barring any other fires that require initial attack," officials said. Firefighters have been conducting small, strategic burnout operations to burn off grass in several spots; dead, dried grass is the primary carrier of the fire.

The Division of Forestry initially said no structures were threatened but protection measures for one were implemented after the fire had grown, and the structure is reportedly no longer threatened.

As of Friday, May 1, permitted burning is suspended for the entire state - with the exception of Southeast Alaska south of Cordova - in an attempt to reduce human-caused fires. Burn barrels, debris burning and any other burning covered by small- and large-scale burn permits is not currently allowed.

UPDATE, Thursday, April 30, 1 p.m.:

Firefighters have contained about 25 percent of the now-120-acre wildfire at Point MacKenzie, the Alaska Division of Forestry said Thursday.

While the investigation into the cause of the fire is remains underway, investigators believe the fire is human-caused.

State forestry teams responded to the fire by deploying 50 firefighters to the area and using helicopter crews to drop water on the blaze. The fire is moving toward the northwest and away from residential areas, officials said, burning through dead grass and mixed hardwoods.

This is not the first fire at Point MacKenzie this week. On Tuesday, firefighters responded to a one-acre debris burn grass fire that was less than two miles away from the 120-acre fire currently burning near South Trumpeter Dr.

Officials said the occurrence of two burns within the same week is an indication that the Valley is extremely dry as spring snowmelt reveals dead grass. Because of this, the Division of Forestry has issued a burn permit suspension that goes into place on May 1. The suspension covers all of the state except parts of Southeast Alaska.

The use of burn barrels, debris burning and burn permits will all be suspended to reduce the rate of human-caused fires.

The early suspension also comes with concerns that Alaska will have fewer resources and firefighters to tackle this summer’s burn season as the addition of firefighters from the Lower 48 becomes less certain due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

The Palmer-based firefighting crews have been camping overnight to monitor the fire, and at last check on Thursday, they were working to get a hose line around the fire.

ORIGINAL POST, Wednesday, April 29:

Officials said early Wednesday that fire crews are working on what was initially believed to be a small wildfire off a small access road near Knik Goose Bay Rd.

"We received multiple calls from folks in Anchorage and around the Valley that could see the smoke," said Phil Blydenburgh, Fire Management Officer for the Mat-Su Southwest Div. of Forestry. "The first size-up we got from helitack crew was that it is two acres."

Shortly thereafter, however, the estimate had grown to 30 acres in what is the second wildfire in the area in just two days, according to Tim Mowry of the Division of Forestry.

"It just shows how dry things are," Mowry said. "There is no snow anywhere out there. It's just all dead, dry grass."

About 50 people are currently working on the fire, which is accessible on the ground via a two-track or four-wheeling trail along South Trumpeter Dr., according to Blydenburgh.

Crews are currently working the fire primarily with drops from buckets, but several hand crews are also on the ground. Mowry also said that crews are using the ATV trail to try to get hoseline to the fire, and that water tenders from Central Mat-Su Fire Department are there to help provide water.

Smoke seen in the area is from the wildfire - burning mostly in grass and intermittent spruce - as well as several controlled burns in the area, officials said.

The Point Mackenzie Fire, which was only about an acre in size, burned Tuesday a mile-and-a-half or so away from the fire burning as of Wednesday evening, though officials said the two fires are not related.

A

, which will suspend all burn permits – both small- and large-scale – is set to begin on May 1.

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