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With calmer winds, Moose Creek fire crews step up efforts at containment

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: October 19, 2016
  • Published October 18, 2016

PALMER — Diminished winds and more firefighters Tuesday allowed crews to ramp up efforts to contain a Sutton-area wildfire near the Glenn Highway.

Alaska Division of Forestry spokeswoman Sarah Saarloos said early Tuesday that the 328-acre Moose Creek fire, first reported early Saturday, remained at 22 percent containment Tuesday and crews could start putting additional lines around it.

"The big thing is that the fire edge has stabilized," Saarloos said midafternoon Tuesday. "We haven't had any new growth. We're not anticipating any new growth."

By Tuesday evening, the size of the fire was decreased due to better mapping, according to Mat-Su Borough public affairs officer Patty Sullivan. Firefighters had extended the line around nearly half of the fire area, Sullivan said in an email.

The fire's footprint expanded during flare-ups early Monday that saw it burn toward the Glenn, prompting a brief morning closure; traffic returned to normal by 6 p.m., however.

Shaun Baines, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Anchorage office, said Tuesday morning that forecasts called for winds in the fire area to remain at 20 to 25 mph through Wednesday before dying off by the end of the week. That was good news for firefighters who have been dealing with high winds since the fire first flared over the weekend.

"It looks like winds have come way down," Baines said. "There's still some wind — we're looking at gusts from 25 to 30 miles per hour right now, but that's certainly down from the 50 to 60 we were seeing yesterday."

Having more firefighters at Moose Creek on Tuesday "helped immensely," Saarloos said.

About 90 personnel on the fire line Tuesday — bolstered by a Fairbanks smokejumper crew and Alaska Air National Guard firefighters who arrived Monday afternoon — planned to focus on linking existing roads and trails in the area to form a solid perimeter around the fire, she said. Two helicopters are still serving as fire crews' main air support for dumping water on hot spots.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries in separate instances Monday while fighting the fire. Saarloos declined to discuss the nature of the injuries but said they weren't caused by burns or smoke inhalation and that neither was hospitalized.

"They were out working in steep, uneven terrain," she said.

Reporter Chris Klint contributed.

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