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PHOTOS: Crews battle Funny River fire, now over 44,000 acres

A boat travels along the upper Kasilof River towards Tustumena Lake through smoke from the Funny River wildfire on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.
Bill Roth photo
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighter crew hikes into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth photo
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 photo
Firefighters from Central Emergency Services monitor hot spots to prevent the wildfire from crossing Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth photo
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighter crew prepares to hike into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth photo
Alaska Incident Management Team PIO Celeste Prescott talks to citizens after setting up a fire information board at mile 106 of the Sterling Highway on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Multiple fire information boards are set up to inform the public about the Funny River wildfire.
Bill Roth photo
Firefighters from Central Emergency Services monitor hot spots to prevent the wildfire from crossing Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth photo
The Chena Hot Shots, a Type 1 wildland firefighting crew from Fairbanks, hikes towards the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth photo
Firefighters from Central Emergency Services monitor hot spots to prevent the wildfire from crossing Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth photo
An air tanker drops water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth photo
Alaska Dispatch

With three major Alaska wildfires burning, more ground is on fire here than in any other state in the U.S. besides Arizona, drawing crews from the Lower 48 and aerial tankers from Canada.

As of Thursday, active fires were burning across almost 47,000 acres in Alaska, much of it on the Kenai Peninsula, authorities say.

Rising winds expected in Southcentral by Thursday afternoon had commanders dispatching firefighters and aircraft to hold back fires near at-risk areas including homes on the Kenai and the complex of oil, natural gas and energy facilities near Beluga, across Cook Inlet from Anchorage.

Strong wind and low humidity prompted the National Weather Service to issue red-flag warnings for critical fire conditions from 2 p.m. Thursday until 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.

Read more: Crews battling wildfires scramble to get ahead of winds in forecast