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Crews battling wildfires try to get ahead of winds in forecast

Zaz Hollander,Devin Kelly
A firefighter warns Sam Werner, left, and Levi Hohl of a fire that jumped a fire line a half mile from where they were working to try to secure Levi HohlÕs brotherÕs property near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. They were evacuated shortly afterwards.
Loren Holmes
Heavy smoke from the Funny River wildfire is visible in the distance from Erik Hansen Scout Park in Kenai on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A helicopter dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
John Hohl walks the fire line near his home on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. He and his brother were putting out hot spots.
Loren Holmes
Children play on a trampoline north of Browns Lake Road on Rabbit Run on Sunday afternoon, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
John Hohl, right, is exhausted and frustrated after being evacuated from his home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. From a neighborÕs home, he watched the fire burn less than a half mile from his home.
Loren Holmes
Incident commander Rob Allen of the Alaska Incident Management Team addresses questions during a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
A helicopter that dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014, gets another bucket of water.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Sam Werner walks a fire line near Browns Lake, looking for hot spots, on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The Funny River fire had burned up to the line three hours before.
Loren Holmes
An airplane drops retardant on a fire line near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Sam Werner rests in Dan DesmaraisÕ yard after working furiously to clear trees from his friend John HohlÕs nearby property near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. Werner and others were told to evacuate as the fire jumped a fire line less than a half mile from HohlÕs home.
Loren Holmes
Rem West hits a tee shot on the 7th hole at the Bird Homestead Golf Course off Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014, with a column of smoke from the wildfire visible in the distance.
Bill Roth
A helicopter dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
A hot spot flares up along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. The Funny River fire was temporarily stopped here overnight, but changing conditions prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for neighborhoods directly across the line.
Loren Holmes
Dan Desmarais, left, and Steve Schumacher watch the Funny River fire from DesmaraisÕ deck on Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Skilak lake is shrouded in smoke from the Funny River fire on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildfire officials held a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Hooper Bay crew, Type 2 wildland firefighters, hike towards the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Central Emergency Services firefighters put out hot spots along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. The Funny River fire was temporarily stopped here overnight, but changing conditions prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for neighborhoods directly across the line.
Loren Holmes
Helicopters drop water on the Funny River fire near Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A sign warns campers of burn bans in effect at a campsite along Skilak Lake Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildfire officials held a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Sterling resident Brian McCorison drove up Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 to check out the area where the Funny River fire was thought to have started. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighters prepare to hike into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Fire reaches the south side of the Kenai River, just across from the Kenai Keys Subdivision, at 1:50 p.m. Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighters walk the fire line along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A fire flares up south of Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Photo courtesy of Fred and Cecilia Colvin A resident took a picture of the wall of flame erupting about 10:35 p.m. Friday night (May 23, 2014) off Heavy Down Drive near mile 105 on the east side of the Sterling Highway before people there were evacuated.
Fred and Cecilia Colvin
Clouds of smoke rise above small airplanes parked at the Soldotna Airport near Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Sterling resident Brian McCorison drove up Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 to check out the area where the Funny River fire was thought to have started. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighters prepare to hike into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Boats and equipment are ferried away from a cabin and away from the approaching fire on the south side of the Kenai River at 1:54 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, near Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighter Sarah Smith informs residents Mike Foust and Danna Moisii of the current Funny River fire conditions from a lookout point at the end of Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. In the distance, a hot spot flares up from the still very active fire.
Loren Holmes
From left, Levi Hohl, Steve Schumacher, John Hohl and Dan Desmarais watch fire activity from DesmaraisÕ deck on Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Mary Joe McElroy, Katie Blossom, and Marina Bosick get an update on the Funny River wildfire by cell phone at their Bear Creek cabin in the remote subdivision on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Smokey warns motorist driving south on the Sterling Highway near Soldotna that the fire danger was "Extreme" on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Officials lifted the evacuation order for the Funny River neighborhood on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, and residents began returning shortly after 9:00am.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighter crew hikes into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
A last load out from a cabin on the south side of the Kenai River is unloaded on the gravel beach at Kenai Keys at 1:58 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
The Funny River fire burns near the northern edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
An ember burns in the northern portion of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The area, along a fire line south of Browns Lake, had burned three hours before.
Loren Holmes
Streaks of wildfire debris float on the surface of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A bulldozer clears a line off Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
Firefighter Matt Tegerdine of Central Emergency Services monitors a hot spot to prevent the wildfire from crossing Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Smoke obscures sight of a cabin on the south side of the Kenai River at 1:59 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
The Funny River fire burns near the northern edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Firefighters douse hot spots along a fire line near Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin in the on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Chena Hot Shots, a Type 1 wildland firefighting crew from Fairbanks, hikes along Funny River Road while battling the wildfire on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
Trees burn to the edge of the water on the south side of the Kenai River at 2:01 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighters monitor hot spots that had crossed the fire line near Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The area was evacuated later that day.
Loren Holmes
Sam Werner, left, and Levi Hohl put out hot spots along a fire line near HohlÕs brotherÕs home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The Funny River fire had burned up to the line three hours before.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
An air tanker drops water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
A river boat stands offshore in front of the fire line on the south side of the Kenai River at 2:03 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter dumps water on the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A bulldozer clears a fire line on Saturday, May 24, 2014, protecting the Funny River neighborhood from a wildfire that has topped 100 thousand acres in size.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighter Spencer McLean of Central Emergency Services places a water and foam mixture on the on the brush and trees along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
ANNE RAUP / Anchorage Daily News Boaters, bikers, four-wheeler enthusiasts and others flocked to Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, despite heavy smoke from the wildfires burning in Southcentral Alaska.
Anne Raup
Local resident Sue Looney watches for embers jumping the river on the Kenai Keys side of the Kenai River at 2:13 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
Members of the Houston, Alaska fire department stage their personnel and equipment in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The area was later evacuated.
Loren Holmes
A pyrocumulonimbus cloud forms above the northern flank of the Funny River fire on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Dan Desmarais, left, helps his neighbor John Hohl water his home and yard in advance of the nearby Funny River fire on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. HohlÕs home is near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna.
Loren Holmes
Land owners check on their Bear Creek cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A firefighter from Central Emergency Service monitors the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Wildfire smoke obscures the Chugach Mountains as Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Anchorage Veterans Memorial Rededication Ceremony held Monday morning, May 26, 2014, on the Delaney Park Strip.
Erik Hill
Fire crews arrive and help search through dense smoke to find embers in the Kenai Keys Subdivision at 2:42 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
From left, Arianna Moonin, 11, Tristan Moonin, 8, Kammy Highlands-Vatshelle, 9, Elias Moonin, 12, and Tatiana Moonin, 9 play on a trampoline in the Funny River neighborhood while a forest fire burns behind them on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Their neighborhood was evacuated an hour later.
Loren Holmes
An airplane prepares to drop retardant on a fire burning on the edge of Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildland firefighters and supplies are positioned at the Bear Creek subdivision on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters hydrate while monitoring the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Helicopters dump water on flames on the south side of the Kenai River to hold the line at 3:08 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
A helicopter drops water on a hot spot near the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A fire burns on the edge of Lake Road in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Streams of smoke billow from the Funny River wildfire along the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A firefighter works the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Gov
Helicopters scoop water from the Kenai River to hold the line on the south side of the river at 3:09 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter gathers water from Aurora Lake to dump on the Funny River fire, burning nearby on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Chris Lucas watches a fire burn near his home off of Lake Road in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A helicopter shuttles firefighters to the remote Bear Creek subdivision on north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A goat named Snickers that lives at Mile 9 of Funny River Road was relocated to Soldotna during the wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Planes dump water on the south side of the Kenai River at 3:34 p.m. Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Driver Mike Morris monitors a ridge beyond a group of firefighters working on a fire line near Aurora Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Morris is looking for any sign of the fire encroaching on the firefighters.
Loren Holmes
John Hohl, left, rushes to clear spruce from his home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. With him is his brother Levi Hohl, in red, and friend Sam Werner.
Loren Holmes
Photo by Karol Raszkiewicz Smoke from the Funny River Horse Trail fire rises above the peninsula Thursday evening, May 22, 2014. Raszkiewicz was on a flight from Dillingham to Anchorage when she made the aerial image of the smoke.
Karol Raszkiewicz
Sierra Chapman, 11, feeds leaves from a tree to some of the 10 goats and 4 Alpaca's that live at Mile 9 of Funny River Road that were relocated to Soldotna on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Central Emergency Services firefighter Sarah Smith informs Funny River residents Pete Chaussee, left, Angela Rhodes, and Dan Smith of the current Funny River fire conditions from a lookout point at the end of Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter prepares to gather water from Aurora Lake to dump on the Funny River fire, burning nearby on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Behind the helicopter is a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, created by fire activity on the north east edge of the fire.
Loren Holmes

With three major wildfires, more ground is burning in Alaskan than any other state besides chronically dry Arizona, drawing crews from the Lower 48 and aerial tankers from Canada to supplement firefighting teams from villages, town and cities.

By Thursday, active fires were burning across almost 66,000 acres in Alaska, most of it on the Kenai Peninsula, authorities say.

Fire commanders expecting rising winds worked to make advances against fires near at-risk areas including homes on the Kenai and the complex of oil, natural gas and power generation facilities near Beluga, across Cook Inlet from Anchorage.

Strong winds and low humidity prompted the National Weather Service to issue red-flag warnings for critical fire conditions through 10 p.m. Friday for the Susitna Valley and western Kenai Peninsula -- sites of the two largest fires in the state. Forecasters predicted "strong and gusty northerlies" with very dry air behind them. They also issued bad-air alerts for Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough for the Memorial Day weekend, especially in the mornings.

A major infusion of personnel and air power allowed crews to get aggressive Thursday against the Funny River Horse Trail Fire that's burned more than 63,000 acres on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The fire on Thursday grew mainly to the east, and a bit to the south, said fire information officer Celeste Prescott.

Nearly 170 firefighters and other personnel assigned to the fire were joined by two air tankers, five helicopters, and four Canadian water bombers locals could spot scooping out of Tustumena and Skilak lakes. Crews assigned to the fire included those from Chena, Palmer, Hooper Bay, Huslia, Nikolai, Nondalton and Stebbins. More wildland crews were en route. A "task force" of fire engines and other vehicles and personnel headed down Thursday from Delta, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su Borough.

The water bomber planes made drops on the fire's perimeter near Kasilof, where the fire was burning within four miles of the Kasilof River, public information officer Michelle Weston said Thursday morning. Wildland firefighters headed by boat to the remote Bear Creek subdivision east of Tustumena Lake, about three miles from the fire.

Helicopters dumped water on the fire's northeast flank near Funny River Road, Weston said. Crews working through the night Wednesday made progress corralling the fire on the northwest corner with a bulldozer-cleared fire break.

Officials continued to urge residents to remember how dry and fire-prone the Peninsula remains. A burn suspension that includes burn barrels has been in place on the Kenai for a week. Campfires in approved fire ring three feet across or smaller are OK, but there must be water nearby and the fire can't be left unattended.

Despite the warnings -- and the proximity of a massive blaze -- firefighters responded to several backyard debris burns and abandoned campfires on the Kenai Wednesday, according to an Alaska interagency fire update. Crews responding Wednesday to a structure fire on Irish Hills Avenue near the Sterling Highway discovered a nearby homeowner with a 40-square-foot pile of debris "that he had been burning for quite some time," according to the center's update. An engine and squad of firefighters put a containment line in place and doused the fire.

At meetings for the Funny River and Kasilof communities Thursday night, officials shared information with hundreds of residents on the scale of firefighting efforts and evacuation procedures and sought to quell mounting worries from residents who have nervously watched the fire spread over the past two days.

At Tustumena Elementary School, the residents pressed officials about evacuation plans, the weather forecast, and Memorial Day weekend crowds, incredulous that open campfires were still permitted. They asked if there was anything they could to do help, volunteering their own personal heavy equipment. Officials politely declined the offer.

Raising his voice to the officials, Martin Calloway, 62, demanded: "How close are you going to let it get to our homes?"

The question wasn't directly answered.

Scott Walden, the Kenai Peninsula Borough's emergency services chief, assured residents that the borough was in close coordination with fire managers on evacuation plans. If people had to leave, they could expect at least several hours notice, he said.

After the meeting, several residents said they felt better hearing about the resources being used on the fire. Others said they remained concerned, though they acknowledged they were better informed.

"I don't know how to feel," said Calloway.

WATCHING BELUGA

Another fire on the northwest shore of Cook Inlet between Tyonek and Beluga continued to pose a threat but no immediate danger to Beluga oil and natural gas facilities or the Chugach Electric Association power plant north of Beluga, according to Renette Saba, public information officer on the Tyonek fire. Firefighters conducted burnout operations to clear a buffer around natural gas distribution pipelines, substations and a power line.

Crews also defended the Beluga Power Plant, which provides power for much of Anchorage, with a controlled burn that stopped the fire's progress in that direction, utility and fire officials said. The fire remained about five miles from the power plant, Chugach spokesman Phil Steyer said Thursday.

A ConocoPhillips spokeswoman said the fire was about two miles southwest of the Beluga River Gas Field. Conoco has wells, a gas processing plant and living quarters in the area, spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said.

If the situation with the fire changed, Conoco and other operators would work together to evacuate workers and shut-in wells, Lowman said.

Another producer, Hilcorp, operates an oil storage tank farm about six miles from Tyonek. The company reduced oil in the tanks to minimum levels, according to spokeswoman Lori Nelson. As of Thursday, Nelson said, the fire was moving away from the facility.

Fire was still four miles from Enstar Natural Gas facility at Beluga, a small building with meters that track power plant consumption and monitor gas flow from producers, Enstar spokesman John Sims said.

Enstar operates a 20-inch high-pressure natural gas transmission line from west Cook Inlet to the Mat-Su, but it's underground, Sims said. Even if Enstar had to stop flow from that section of line, he said, the utility would pull gas from the other side of the Inlet and there wouldn't be any interruptions.

5 STRUCTURES LOST

The Tyonek Fire had grown to about 1,800 acres by Thursday but was still more than a mile from the nearest homes in Beluga during the day, Saba said. Most of the fire's growth of about 300 acres since Wednesday was due to spot fires that developed downwind.

The fire destroyed three Conex containers south of Viapan lake and two outbuildings near the mouth of the Chuitna River, Saba said.

There were 108 personnel assigned to that blaze, a mix of wildland crews including hot shot, initial attack and hand crews wielding pulaski tools to put out smoldering wood and hold existing fire lines. Wildland crews assigned to the fire came from Palmer, Fairbanks, Selawik and White Mountain. A fresh management team was expected to take over Friday afternoon.

As on the Kenai, commanders on Tyonek fire are wary of potential afternoon and evening winds. Crews built a fire line -- a vegetation-free fire buffer -- around a natural gas tower and bulldozers carved another line from the Beluga Road to the coast in an effort to contain the fire east of the road.

By Thursday evening, no fire had passed the burned-out areas created the night before, Palmer-based state fire management officer Norm McDonald said.

"We're doing pretty good today, although this is kind of the time of day the wind picks up and starts changing on them," McDonald said around 6 p.m.

Crews remained in the village of Tyonek, about 10 miles south of Beluga. Many residents evacuated Monday night when the fire threatened their homes, though they've since been allowed back with a warning to be ready to move if the fire shifts.

The biggest need in Tyonek Thursday was supplies for residents and for firefighters who nearly doubled the remote village's population, locals said. People have already donated more than $24,000, according to information posted on Tyonek Native Corporation's Facebook page. Apache Corp. and Hilcorp donated fuel and ConocoPhillips transported goods by helicopter.

The money has been spent on fuel for trucks and four-wheelers plus more than $7,000 for food and other supplies.

"The support has been phenomenal," the post stated. "I understand that the firefighters appreciate all the hot meals."

AWAY FROM PIPELINE

Meanwhile, another fire burning near the trans-Alaska pipeline and the Dawson Highway bridge across the Yukon River had grown to 450 acres by Thursday but wasn't immediately threatening structures or the pipeline, according to the state Division of Forestry.

The Dalton River Crossing Fire was moving away from the highway and the pipeline Thursday afternoon, according to a spokesman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Fire information officer Pete Buist said the fire got to within about a mile and a half of the pipeline, Alaska's chief economic artery. But the west end of the fire closest to that area has quieted down while the other end of the fire is more active and burning north uphill. An 80-acre spot fire was closer to a BLM visitor center and Yukon River Camp, a Dalton Highway fuel, lodging and food stop, Buist said.

The number of people on that fire jumped Thursday to 52, with wildland fire crews from the villages of Allakaket and Minto and more aircraft arriving Wednesday night, joining 16 smokejumpers and a helicopter already there.

Forecasting strong winds across much of Alaska and areas of low humidity, the National Weather Service on Thursday issued red-flag warnings from Kotzebue to Bristol Bay. Even in places without the warning, such as Anchorage, Kodiak and the Mat-Su Borough, state foresters have suspended burn permits.

With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, fire officials urged extreme caution.

"Any spark could start a fire. We don't need any more fires," said Doug Newbould, fire management officer for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. "We got a big enough one."

Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Services has set up a call line to help homeowners with fire preparedness. Residents can call (907) 714-2495.

Devin Kelly (dkelly@adn.com) reported from Soldotna, Zaz Hollander (zhollander@adn.com) from Wasilla.

 


By ZAZ HOLLANDER and DEVIN KELLY
Anchorage Daily News