Unalaska's Fire Department Responds To Large Fire On Mt. Ballyhoo

Apr 29, 2020

Fire Chief Patrick Shipp said there is no threat to life from Wednesday's fire on Mt. Ballyhoo.
Credit Suzi Golodoff

Officials at Unalaska's fire department are monitoring a large fire that started Wednesday evening on Mt. Ballyhoo near Dutch Harbor's Spit.

This is the second large brush fire in Unalaska in the past two weeks. 

Patrick Shipp, fire chief at the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, said they were notified around 5 p.m. about a fire on the side of Mt. Ballyhoo.

 

"When we arrived on scene, down at the end of the Spit, they were burning pallets," said Shipp. "It looked like maybe an ember had gotten out of the pallets that they were burning and started a fire maybe 40 or 50 feet up the side of the hill."

 

When fire crews arrived, it had already grown "pretty big," according to Shipp. He estimated the fire is approximately 15-20 acres and is burning slowly. He did not identify who started it. 

 

Because of the terrain, fire personnel are currently unable to access the blaze, but are monitoring it closely.  

 

 

A large fire started around 5 p.m. on Wednesday on Mt. Ballyhoo near Dutch Harbor's Spit.
Credit Suzi Golodoff

Shipp said the department set up incident command at the bottom of the hill to protect Pacific Stevedoring (Pac Steve) housing and the Icicle Seafoods processing plant. A crew at the top of Ballyhoo is monitoring the communications towers there. 

Because the fire is so slow moving and burning on steep terrain, personnel are waiting for the fire to move further up the mountain — where terrain is more manageable — to access it, said Shipp. 

"But I would imagine we're going to be able to make it to the fire," said Shipp. "We're going to go down this hill and stay as safe as we can. I've got to protect the firefighters. But we're able to go down the side of the mountain maybe 150 feet, so that's where we're going to try to make a stand with it and cut a line across there to stop the fire. It's so slow moving that it's kind of just wait and see."

Shipp said protecting communications is their number one priority right now, and there is no threat to life.   

The fire is burning near Ulakta Head —  a National Historic Area which is home to Fort Schwatka, one of four coastal defense posts built to protect Dutch Harbor during World War II. It is also the northernmost point of Amaknak Island.

The department will be investigating the cause of the fire.