Evacuations recommended ahead of intensifying Interior Alaska wildfires

·2 min read

Jun. 28—Two lightning-sparked fires in Interior Alaska were approaching several communities as of Monday, prompting evacuation orders.

Officials worry that hot, dry, windy conditions could exacerbate the blazes as the week goes on.

As of Monday morning, about 34 structures were threatened by the Minto Lakes Fire northwest of Fairbanks, said Jonathan Ashford, a public information officer for the fire information center. On Sunday, officials recommended that anyone north of the Chatanika River and west of the boat launch evacuate. Ashford said it was not clear how many people lived in the area and had evacuated.

The fire started last week and had grown to more than 9,200 acres by Monday morning.

Firefighters planned to do structural assessments on a subdivision east of the fire Monday and will continue to focus on structural protection and preparation, Ashford said.

"They're going in just as a precaution right now to start doing some assessments in that community to see what, if anything, will need to be done because the fire on that north end is progressing to the east along Washington Creek," he said.

Another fire, west of Anderson in Denali Borough, is threatening about 45 homes, said Sam Harrel, an information officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry. The Clear Fire started by lightning last week and had grown to more than 9,500 acres on Monday.

About 43 people live in the area recommended for evacuation, said Denali Borough Clerk Amber Renshaw, but many use the properties as second homes or cabins. Only one person was confirmed to have evacuated the area by Monday morning, Renshaw said. Others were likely remaining in their homes.

The borough has two shelter locations set up if needed, Renshaw said.

The wildfire was moving southwest on Monday with the most activity on the western flank, Harrel said. There are cabins along the Teklanika River that could be threatened by the fire, but Harrel said it was a good sign that the blaze was moving away from Anderson and the Clear Space Force Station.

A Wasilla man working as a pilot on the fire died in a helicopter crash Sunday night.

Hot and dry conditions are expected to persist until next week, Harrel said. Wind is also expected to move through the state, which he said will drastically increase fire danger.

"It's going to be wonderful weather this week," he said. "And it may not be wonderful weather for firefighters, but it's really good weather for Alaskans. And I anticipate everybody's going to be out and about and next weekend is the Fourth of July holiday weekend and we really need to be careful. We're so focused on the fires that we have on the landscape, but totally preventable human caused fires are very problematic at a time like this."