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Wildfire threatens Tyonek village

Kyle Hopkins
Alaska Division of Forestry

A wind-driven wildfire threatening Tyonek on the northwest shore of Cook Inlet grew to 350 acres Monday night and had burned to within 2 miles of the village, forestry officials say.

By 11:45 p.m. Monday, forestry officials said crews had made good progress diverting the flames away from Tyonek.

More than 50 firefighters and an air tanker were battling the blaze, which was first reported at about 2:45 p.m. and began about five miles from the community. The Chuitna River separates the fire from the village, but spots were burning on the village side as of 7 p.m., said fire management officer Norm McDonald with the Division of Forestry in Palmer.

The Division had not called for an evacuation, although some village residents arranged to spend the night a safe distance away. Native Village of Tyonek President Al Goozmer said his family planned to sleep at a fish camp more than a mile from the community.

No homes had been damaged and no homes were threatened as of Monday night, Goozmer said.

Hotshot crews, local firefighters and others were looking to stop the advance of the flames toward the village while steering it towards lakes and wet areas, McDonald said.

"We're getting stretched thin on resources," he said. Some firefighters and equipment were diverted to another ongoing burn about 3 miles from the Soldotna airport.

That fire began at about 4:30 p.m. and quickly spread from 1.5 acres to 10 to 15 acres, said Soldotna-area Forestry spokesman Andy Alexandrou. About 50 firefighters, two helicopters and two dozers are working on that blaze, he said, though the wind is steering it away from homes and toward Tustumena Lake, he said.

 


By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com