Investigation Faults Burn Pile in Alaska Interior Fire

An Alaskan woman has been cited for burning without clearing an area after a state investigation found an improperly cleared burn pile to blame for last spring’s Dalton Crossing fire.

Dorothy Catherine Towson faces a possible fine of between $100 and $500. She also could face restitution for costs associated with fighting the 400-acre fire, located near where the Dalton Highway crosses the Yukon River.

Arraignment has been scheduled for next month, according to the state court website.

Towson told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that she will pay the fine, but she doesn’t believe she did anything wrong. Towson called it a “fluke thing.”

The barometer went down or something, they were telling me, and it just kind of took off,” she said.

She said the fire spread as far as it did because it burned through downed trees from a 2004 fire. Towson said she had no help in fighting the fire until a pilot in a passing plane noticed.

The fire, while small by the standards of fires in Interior Alaska, approached the Dalton Highway.

According to the complaint, on May 29, the fire escaped a remote burn area that Towson had been using for years.

State wildfire investigator Michael Goyette wrote in the complaint that he told Towson and her son that if they had cleared a fire break, “the wildfire would not have occurred.”