Clear Fire breaches fire lines to neighborhoods
Wildfire grows to 61,589 acres as it nears Parks Highway
ANDERSON, Alaska (KTUU) - The Clear Fire in Interior Alaska jumped into a rural subdivision late Wednesday near Anderson as crews work to keep it from reaching the Parks Highway, according to fire officials in charge of extinguishing the blaze.
On Thursday night, there was a town hall meeting for the community, hosted by Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker and fire officials.
“I’ve been at this nearly 10 years and this is the biggest fire and the biggest response, certainly in the last 10 years here in the borough,” Walker said. “Over a 60,000-acre fire, a team of about 500 people on this, on the fire fighting it actively, and a lot of infrastructure and yeah private property in the line of fire.”
In a Thursday morning update, fire officials with multiple agencies said winds that blew in from the southwest fanned the flames in the southeast corner of the fire, which grew by over 8,500 acres since Wednesday morning to a new total of 61,589 acres. The fire breached a dozer line that had been set in place by crews earlier in the week that runs east to west, near Diane Avenue.
Officials said the situation in the Kobe Ag subdivision became severe enough to necessitate evacuations for crews to keep them safe.
“Firefighters working to protect structures on the west side of Kobe Ag had to evacuate due to extreme fire behavior and life-threatening conditions,” officials wrote. “They remained near Rochester Way, working to protect structures where possible.”
Officials said that several aircraft were requested to help fight the fire, and overnight crews worked to attack spot fires in efforts to keep the blaze from crossing the Nenana River.
In a video update on the state Division of Forestry’s Facebook page, Operations Section Chief Trainee Josh Riepe said winds shifted Wednesday night and pushed the fire further eastward.
“We did experience some significate weather events that increased fire activity,” Riepe said. “... The crews had to disengage due to safety concerns and had to pull back into designated safety zones and let the fire pass.”
Riepe said all efforts Thursday will be focused in the subdivision to reestablish control of the fire.
There are currently more than 200 fires actively burning across Alaska, already scorching more than 2.3 million acres of land.
“On July 2, we reached 2 million acres burned for our year total to that point,” said Sam Harrel from the Division of Forestry. “And that’s the second time for that earliest, reaching a 2 million acre point.”
The last time Alaska saw this was in 2015, when the fires ended up burning more than 5 million acres, according to the Division of Forestry.
“It’s not an indication that this year is going to end up there,” Harrel said. “But it says that we’re definitely moving on a pace as that.”
As of Thursday, two of the biggest individual fires are the Clear Fire to the south of Fairbanks, and the Minto Lakes Fire to the west of the same city, directly threatening residents, homes and other structures with evacuations ordered for certain areas near both of them.
Fire officials say anyone on either side of the Parks Highway, between miles 273 and 280, must evacuate if they haven’t already.
The Denali Borough officials said that you should still drive calmly, yield to emergency vehicles and make sure not to block access roads.
Evacuation sites have been set up at the Tri-Valley and Nenana City schools.
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