Alaska News

As major blazes keep burning, firefighters battle smaller wildfires across Alaska

Update, 7 a.m., Tuesday:

The Healy Lake Fires grew to 10,000 acres by Friday, more than doubling since Thursday, according to a status report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

Spot fires along the Cummings Road side of the Tanana River have been reported. The report said crews used dozers, engines, tankers, and manpower to contain, and put out multiple hot spots.

Although the fire is smoldering and creeping, the report said, danger to structures in the area has been reduced.

Original story:

While massive wildfires near the Alaska communities of Sterling and Willow have taken much of firefighters' focus and resources, crews have also been battling smaller blazes across the state.

A total of 57 fires were actively burning in Alaska by Thursday evening, according to Tim Mowry, Division of Forestry public information officer.

Four fires were drawing firefighters' attention in Interior Alaska on Thursday morning.

The Healy Lake fire, east of Delta Junction, was ignited by lightning Tuesday and had grown to roughly 4,000 acres by Thursday afternoon, said Elayn Briggs, a public information officer at the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. Air tankers spent most of Wednesday trying to protect cabins in the area with fire retardant. Overnight, the fire bumped up against the Tanana River, Briggs said.

Thirty-eight people are working the fire, and additional Hotshot crews were expected to arrive Thursday, according to a situation report from the coordination center in Fairbanks.

North of Nenana, the lightning-sparked Standard Valley fire was still 100 percent active and had burned 3.5 acres, according to the report. Resources have responded to that fire, including eight smokejumpers and three tanker aircraft dropping fire retardant.

In the Back Yukon Slough fire, which the report said was started by human activity, 50 acres have burned, Briggs said. "Progress was made with sawline construction around the perimeter," the report said.

The Tanana Slough fire had burned 718 acres of land by Thursday morning, the report said.

In Southcentral Alaska, two fires near Montana Creek had burned about 3.8 acres total and were under control by Wednesday, the report said. Crews planned to check for hot spots Thursday.

The Stetson Creek Fire, which was started by lightning Tuesday night along the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula, had consumed about 400 acres by Thursday, the report said. Crews worked Wednesday to protect structures in the Cooper Landing area. The Cooper Creek Campground was also evacuated and will remain closed.

Just across the Sterling Highway, the Juneau Lake Fire appeared to be heading north, pushed by winds out of the south. According to the report, the fire has consumed 100 acres. Three U.S. Forest Service cabins are threatened.

Gwin's Lodge seasonal employee Cody Cates said there is "definitely concern" about the Cooper Landing fires.

During a phone interview, Cates said he had just gotten off of the phone with a customer who canceled a reservation due to fire, but overall business doesn't seem to be down much.

"We're getting a lot of calls from customers," Cates said. "But people seem to be adjusting."

Cates said flames weren't visible from the lodge, although he could see plumes of smoke and helicopters overhead.

The Whitefish Lake fire in Southwest Alaska hasn't grown since Tuesday and remained at 14,836 acres on Thursday morning, the report said. But because of dry, windy weather, the fire is extremely active.