Rural Alaska

Winds push wildfire to within 8 miles of St. Mary’s in Western Alaska

High winds have pushed a wildfire to within a few miles of St. Mary’s in Western Alaska, officials said Thursday.

No evacuation orders were issued for St. Mary’s though the East Fork Fire was within 8 miles, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service said in a statement. No structures have been burned.

The nearly 50,000-acre fire was started May 31 by lightning. The fire jumped the Andreafsky River on Tuesday.

Fire officials said the priorities remain public safety and firefighter safety, and protecting sites of value along the Andreafsky and East Fork Andreafsky rivers, along with St. Mary’s and the nearby villages of Pilot Station, Pitkas Point and Mountain Village.

A hotshot crew has been making a fuel break north of the villages in case the fire continues south along a river corridor. Another crew was expected to arrive Thursday to help that effort.

In the last week, winds blowing south down the river drainage have resulted in significant fire growth. The fire is burning tundra, brush and pockets of black spruce trees.

Fire officials expected cooler weather arriving Friday, but winds are expected to persist.

St. Mary’s, a Yup’ik village of about 525 residents, sits on the north bank of the Andreafsky River. The community is located about 450 miles west of Anchorage.

[Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the fire started May 31, not May 1.]

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