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Western Alaska fishing lodge and cabins destroyed in fire that spread into wildland

The Aniak River Lodge and several guest cabins burned down Tuesday night, June 16, 2020. The fire spread to the surrounding wildland and burned approximately 8.5 acres before firefighters were able to contain it. (Alaska Division of Forestry photo)

A Western Alaska fishing lodge and several cabins burned down Tuesday evening in a fire that spread to adjacent wildland. Nobody was hurt.

The owner of the Aniak River Lodge, about 25 miles upstream from Aniak, called for help just after 6 p.m. when flames began to roll toward the main lodge, the Alaska Division of Forestry said in an online statement.

Spokesman Tim Mowry said a structure, likely one of the cabins, had caught fire. Flames then spread toward the lodge and into wildland. The owner said in the initial call for help that the fire was unreachable with the lodge’s hose and was headed for the main building.

The lodge owner and three employees escaped by hopping into boats on the Aniak River, fire crews said. Air crews and gear were sent to the fire from McGrath, Palmer and Galena, but the fire had already destroyed the lodge and cabins by the time they reached the area at 8 p.m.

Mowry said only one outbuilding was still standing Thursday, and the rest of the structures were believed to be a total loss.

Mowry said it wasn’t immediately clear what started the fire but it was believed to be human-caused because there had not been lightning in the area in recent weeks.

The fishing business included a base lodge and seven guest cabins, according to its website.

The fire spread from the buildings to about 8.5 acres of woodland. Crews dropped water and fire retardant on the scene from the air to stop the spread. Firefighters had contained about 60% of the fire Tuesday night and 100% of it by Wednesday night, Mowry said. Crews were still on site Thursday to clear the area and ensure hot spots did not reignite.

There have been 255 fires so far this year that have burned more than 147,000 acres, according to the statewide fire report.

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