Gusty winds and lightning in Interior Alaska fuel wildfire near Fairbanks

A large wildfire south of Fairbanks grew Tuesday as authorities expanded possible evacuation zones and warned of hot, windy conditions around Interior Alaska.

The 35,000-acre McDonald Fire started from a lightning strike on June 8 and spread rapidly through black spruce trees west of the Tanana River, said Beth Ipsen, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska Fire Service.

By Tuesday, the fire had sent up a cloud visible from Fairbanks. Thunderstorms were expected to move into the area this week, bringing the potential for gusty winds and lightning that could fuel more fire growth, officials said.

The fire posed a threat to 21 cabins along 5 Mile Creek where crews have worked to clear vegetation to protect the cabins, but none of the buildings are primary residences, Ipsen said.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning reflecting dry, windy and hot conditions for northern Interior Alaska from Tuesday to Wednesday.

The fire was moving north, prompting officials to escalate the evacuation status for two additional neighborhoods to “ready” on Tuesday, said Luke Butcher, emergency operations director for the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Residents should be ready for a potential evacuation if the fire crosses the Tanana River, he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people lived in the area, but Butcher described it as one of the more rural sections of the borough. He advised residents to sign up for text alerts by sending “FNSB wildfire alert” to 67283.


Statewide, roughly 58,000 acres had burned by Tuesday, mainly in Interior and Western Alaska. Only about 3,000 acres have burned so far this year as a result of human-caused wildfires, Ipsen said, with the remainder mostly started by lightning.

There were no significant fires burning in Southcentral Alaska. Officials described the fire risk as moderate in Anchorage on Tuesday.

Fire officials were monitoring two large tundra fires northeast of Noatak, but neither of the blazes were posing a threat to people or property on Tuesday, Ipsen said.

About 10 acres had burned by Tuesday in two separate fires on Katmai National Park and Preserve, fire officials said. The blazes were likely started by lightning and did not pose any immediate threats to people or property, fire officials said.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.