SMOKY— This satellite image taken on Sunday shows smoke-filled skies over much of the Seward Peninsula

Fires near Koyuk cause smoky skies over Seward Peninsula

A large fire burning 28 miles northeast of Koyuk has filled the air of Nome with smoke. The North River Fire grew to 32,500 acres as of Monday afternoon, is burning tundra and stands of black spruce. According to Beth Ipsen of the Alaska Fire Service it’s in a limited fire management option zone, which means no structures, infrastructure, Native allotments, or other assets are threatened so it will continue to burn without human intervention. It was started by lightning and probably will burn until a good soaking rain comes along.
Ipsen calls it “natural habitat regenerating.” It burns slowly in the tundra and when a stand of black spruce is torched the flames shoot high and produce a lot of smoke. BLM Alaska Fire Service Galena Management Zone personnel are periodically flying over the fire to check its progress as it burns in a limited management option area. Firefighters aboard yesterday’s reconnaissance flight reported 75 percent of the fire’s perimeter was active as the fire was creeping and torching in groups of black spruce.
Also burning near Koyuk are two smaller fires. The Iglutalik River Fire southeast of Koyuk has burned 82 acres and a North Star crew of Alaska trainees are now mopping it up. They are scheduled to leave on Wednesday. The fire was started by lightning on June 11.
The Darby Mountains Fire burning west of Koyuk also was started by lightning on June 11 and has been suppressed by a crew of eight smokejumpers. They are, as of Monday, mopping up and have plans to leave soon.

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