Wildfire near Haines destroys a home, spreads to State Forest land

A 5-acre fire destroyed one home in Haines and spread to State Forest land Monday night. The U.S. Forest Service flew in Tuesday evening to aid the local volunteer fire department.

A fire started at 8.5 mile on the Haines Highway at about 6 p.m. Monday. The fire consumed one residence, and firefighters were working to protect four others as of Tuesday. There are no reported injuries.

At last report, the 5-acre fire moved onto state lands, burning uphill and north.

“We have a 20-person Forest Service crew mobilizing, which should be on scene by the end of the day,” said Paul Robbins Jr., the public affairs staff officer for the Tongass National Forest, on Tuesday.

There is a cooperative agreement between the Forest Service and Alaska’s State Forests when it comes to fighting fires, so the Forest Service will relieve the Haines Volunteer Fire Department this evening.

“Some of the crew is coming from the Tongass, some are coming from the Chugach (National Forest), so they’re coming in from all over Alaska,” he said.

A section of forest is charred by wildfire.
A section of forest is charred by wildfire. (Public domain photo by U.S. Forest Service)

Robbins said Forest Service firefighters will continue to focus on protecting residences as they arrive in Haines.

Haines Borough dispatch got the call just before 6:30 p.m. Monday, and the borough’s volunteer fire department has been fighting the fire since that evening. Private company Coastal Helicopters has been delivering water by bucket to the firefighters.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time. The fire department does not yet have a representative available for comment.

Alaska transitioned into fire season this past month, but Alaska Division of Forestry’s Tim Mowry said fires in the Southeast region are rare.

“We don’t usually pick up many fires in Southeast, obviously, because it’s a rainforest,” he said.

Statewide this year, there have been over 130 reported wildfires that have burned over 33,000 acres. Only seven of those fires were in Southeast.

“Thirty-three thousand acres is really nothing in Alaska, because we’re so big. Typically we’re gonna see 650,000-to-700,000 acres in a typical year,” Mowry said.

There’s an increased risk of fires in Alaska this year, especially along main road corridors. Mowry attributes this year’s increased risk to an early spring and abnormally dry or drought conditions in the Panhandle.

About 150 miles up the highway from the blaze in Haines, CBC reports a nearly 500-hectare fire burning near Haines Junction, Yukon.

KHNS - Haines

KHNS is our partner station in Haines. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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