Firefighters keep Tyonek blaze away from oil and gas facilities

  • By Tim Bradner
  • Friday, May 23, 2014 10:41am
  • News

Firefighters have kept the wind-driven Tyonek fire on Cook Inlet’s west side away from the Beluga gas field and Chugach Electric Association’s Beluga power plant so far.

The fire reached within two to three miles of gas and power facilities but as of Thursday afternoon, a firebreak built by firefighters appeared to be holding, according to Lori Nelson, spokeswoman for Hilcorp Energy, one of the owners of the Beluga field.

A firebreak is a strip of area cleared in front of the fire to halt the advance.

ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said operations in the Beluga field are normal. ConocoPhillips is the Beluga field operator. The Beluga gas field supplies gas to Chugach Electric Association’s Beluga power plant, which is also at the field.

The field also supplies gas to Enstar Natural Gas Co., the regional gas utility.

About 150 firefighters are now working to control the fire, Nelson said. Hilcorp was providing GIS equipment to the fire management team, which is based in Palmer.

On Wednesday, Hilcorp also took the precaution of draining crude oil storage tanks at the Granite Point production facility on Cook Inlet’s west side.

Meanwhile, the large Funny River fire now covering more than 60,000 acres on the Kenai Peninsula is also being battled but so far is not close to oil and gas production facilities or pipelines, Nelson said. Hilcorp operates gas production at its Ninilchik and Kenai fields on the Peninsula and oil production at the Swanson River field.

Meanwhile, an Interior Alaska fire near the Yukon River bridge presented a threat to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, but the fire has since changed direction. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., operator the pipeline, has moved protective equipment into place, Alyeska spokeman Bill Bailey said. On Thursday, the fire was about three-quarters of a mile from the pipeline but winds shifted and pushed it farther from the Dalton Highway and TAPS.

Alyeska has moved three water spray units with 1,000-gallon water storage bladders and earthmoving equipment to the section of pipeline closest to the fire, Bailey said. 

Fifty-two firefighters from the state Division of Forestry are working to contain the fire. 

“Alyeska is not involved in the firefighting operation at this time, but we have moved equipment into place as a contingency,” Bailey said.

The pipeline also has a cleared 64-foot right-of-way in that section which could serve as a firebreak, he said.

 

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