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Cooler weather gives Alaska firefighters a boost

Cool weather conditions that hold sway over much of Alaska are helping crews on the ground contain the Bear Creek fire about 14 miles south of Anderson.

The fire near the small community of 400 located near the Parks Highway grew to 8,200 acres since starting last Saturday. By Sunday night, there were estimates the fire had grown to 20,000 acres.

However, that estimate was based on aerial assessments. "There was a lot of confusion and a lot of smoke," said Pete Buist, lead information officer for the Alaska Type 1 incident management team. "They couldn't see the entire fire and they made their best guess. It was off by quite a bit."

With light precipitation, higher humidity and moderate temperatures in the 60s, some 312 firefighters are on the ground to assess the area and build a suppression line.

On Sunday, warm weather and strong winds forced firefighters off the line and into the air, where they turned to aerial water dumps and flame retardant. Wind is the primary driver of the fire now. Buist said a "pretty stout" southerly wind is pushing the fire north. But a light mist at the southern end is dampening the fire.

Buist said about 80 residences and 100 buildings are threatened -- but nothing is in immediate danger. "(Being labeled threatened) doesn't mean flames are licking at their doorstop," he said. "But if things change, those are things we'd have to start looking at."

On Sunday pilot cars guided vehicles traveling the Parks Highway through thick smoke north of the Rex Bridge at Mile 275. There have been no other highway delays since then.

A community meeting, to discuss the operation and give updates on the fire, is set for 7 p.m. at the Anderson School.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)

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