‘Hazard Trees’ Pose Danger as Chiniak Fire Mop Up Continues

Jay Barrett/KMXT

The State Division of Forestry is declaring 20 percent of the Twin Creeks Fire in Chiniak is now contained.

Current fire activity is limited to smoldering in areas of heavier fuels and there was no change in the size of the fire overnight. Firefighters are securing the fire line closest to homes on its northern flank, and are making steady progress extending additional containment lines at least 100 feet inside the fire’s perimeter. The goal is to mop up 300 feet inside all around the fire. 

A challenge for the firefighters securing the perimeter, according to fire information officer Jim Schwarber, is the presence of large fire-damaged trees. 

“When a fire burns through a timber stand it weakens the roots, and those trees will turn into what we call ‘hazard trees.’ But they will fall down very easily with not necessarily even a strong wind, and that’s very dangerous,” Schwarber said. “Our fire crews that are securing that line, up to 300 feet wide around the perimeter, for their safety, some of these hazard trees we’re cutting ourselves with the professional fellers we have out there.”

There are now about 90 firefighters working the blaze, including the Hooper Bay, Upper Kalskag and the Yukon Type II Initial Attack crew, which arrived on the ferry Sunday night. A Type 3 Incident Management Team from the Alaska Division of Forestry is in place, as well.

The Twin Creeks Fire, known locally as the Chiniak Fire, started last Thursday evening, possibly caused by a downed powerline during a wind storm with gusts to 65 mph. Overnight and the next day strong winds quickly spread the fire through 5,000 acres of grass, timber and logging slash on Leisnoi, Inc. lands. The Chiniak Library, at least one home, and a cabin were destroyed by the fire.

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