Hot shots called in to battle fire threatening cabins, homes

June 2, 2011 

Highly trained hot shots are part of a team that will take over management of a wildfire that was burning Thursday along a ridge overlooking cabins and recreation homes along the Chatanika River northwest of Fairbanks.

The Hastings Fire also had moved to within about five miles of a subdivision with dozens of homes, said fire information officer Sarah Saarloos.

While the weather Thursday morning was cooler and overcast, the forecast called for winds of up to 30 mph in the afternoon and evening, she said.

"That was another decision-maker on why we needed to ramp up," Saarloos said.

Placing the Hastings Fire under a Type 1 Incident Management Team will bring more resources to the fire. In addition to hot shots, more smokejumpers, ground crews and air support will be brought in, she said.

The fire burning north of the Chatanika River began on Monday. Crews have been trying to keep the fire from destroying 15 cabins and homes in the area, as well as dozens of sheds and other outbuildings. When it moved closer to the subdivision, it made sense to put it under a Type 1 management team and bring in more resources, Saarloos said.

More than 330 people are assigned to the Hastings Fire, which was just one of 48 fires burning in Alaska on Thursday, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

By Thursday morning, the fire had grown to about 8 1/2 square miles and was burning through black spruce and mixed hardwoods. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

A large wildfire northeast of Delta Junction also was growing. The East Volkmar fire was estimated Thursday at about 63 square miles.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team of firefighters from Oregon was expected to arrive Thursday night in Fairbanks to take over management of that fire on Saturday, said fire information officer Sharon Roesch. The fire has been threatening three cabins in the area, she said.

The arrival of the Oregon management team will free up local firefighters who may be needed for new fires that might start, Roesch said.

The hope was that the overcast, cooler, more humid weather that moved into the area on Thursday would allow firefighters to make some progress. However, Saarloos said the little bit of rain that fell overnight would not make much difference given the extraordinarily dry conditions in the Interior this spring.

The light sprinkle was "just enough to keep the dust down," Saarloos said.

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