Daily Journal masthead

Alaska gets help from lower 48 states and Canada in fighting wildfires

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Firefighters and equipment from the lower 48 states and Canada are arriving to help battle wildfires burning in the nation's largest state.

Weary firefighters welcomed the help as they struggled to keep up with two major fires threatening rural highway communities, even as lightning sparked nearly a dozen more blazes.

Although firefighters are devoting most of their time and energy to a large fire in Willow, in the heart of sled dog country, and another on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, it's important to attack the new, smaller fires quickly.

"The idea is, if we can kick things when they're small, then they don't get big and expensive," Pete Buist, a state Division of Forestry spokesman, said from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks.

Fifty-three fires were burning, Buist said, "which in Alaska terms is the not the end of the world, but business is certainly picking up."

Three hundred firefighters from Lower 48 states and Canada were sent to the state. More supervisors, logistics personnel and 20 additional smokejumpers also are flying north, said Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry.

Four water-scooping aircraft from Alberta were due in to Anchorage on Wednesday evening, he said. After clearing U.S. Customs and having their tanks steamed for invasive species, they'll head to fires, Mowry said.

PHOTO: This Monday, June 15, 2015, aerial photo released by the Alaska Division of Forestry shows the Card Street Fire burning on the Kenai Peninsula, between the Sterling Highway and the Kenai River near Sterling, Alaska. The fire doubled in size Tuesday, June 16, 2015, to about 4 square miles and had pushed east into the uninhabited Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska's most popular sport-fishing venue. (Alaska Division of Forestry via AP)
This Monday, June 15, 2015, aerial photo released by the Alaska Division of Forestry shows the Card Street Fire burning on the Kenai Peninsula, between the Sterling Highway and the Kenai River near Sterling, Alaska. The fire doubled in size Tuesday, June 16, 2015, to about 4 square miles and had pushed east into the uninhabited Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska's most popular sport-fishing venue. (Alaska Division of Forestry via AP)

In Willow, an unincorporated community spread out along the main road connecting Anchorage and Fairbanks, 12 square miles have burned, including 25 homes and up to 20 more structures. The 335 people assigned to fight the fire were able to limit its growth on Tuesday and were in line for reinforcements Wednesday.

On the Kenai Peninsula, the blaze in a corridor between the Sterling Highway and the Kenai River, Alaska's most popular sport-fishing venue, has consumed six structures since Monday.

The fire doubled in size Tuesday to about 4 square miles and had pushed east into the uninhabited Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Winds shifted later and pushed it west back toward homes, Buist said.

Firefighters worked to protect structures and keep the fire from jumping the Kenai River to homes on its south side.

The fire spread to areas of heavy spruce on the north side of the river.

"Once it got into that, it was sort of creating its own wind and it developed quite a convection column," Buist said. "Spot fires became a huge issue. Embers rise up in that convection column and then drop out ahead of the fire."

Among the new fires started by lightning were two 2-acre fires at Montana Creek north of the Willow fire. Firefighters attacked from the air with water and retardant before they could spread to threatened cabins.

A lightning fire began at Russian Lake near Cooper Landing about 20 miles east of the Kenai Peninsula. The new fire burned 150 acres of mountain hemlock and spruce in steep terrain, and was threatening some homes along a highway.

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: In this June 16, 2015 photo, two Nikiski Fire Department firefighters walk on a road near a fire-ravaged forest left behind by the Card Street fire in Sterling, Alaska. The wildfire moved rapidly northeast toward the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and authorities have evacuated the Upper and Lower Skilak Lake campground. (Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion via AP)
Click to view (8 Photos)
We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

Category:

Follow Daily Journal:

All content copyright ©2015 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.